Overhauling a 80,000 word manuscript is a daunting process. You can’t catch everything at once. That’s why revising is a process that involves layering.
Your first draft no doubt contains many writing strengths. It also has a lot of rough edges. Don’t despair! Be proud of what you’ve accomplished!
And get ready to rip and tear.
Be brave with the delete key, keeping these tips in mind.
Layers to consider:
The first pass through your rough draft should focus solely on what to keep and what to chuck. So, you’ve got a cute scene where your main character has a cutsy moment with her cat. If that’s the only scene with the cat, bye bye kitty. Your main character takes a shower, basking in lavender soap. FAB. But if she’s not joined by the hottie who she’s jonesing for or she’s not washing blood out of her hair to get rid of evidence connecting her to a crime, then you don’t need it.
Basically, EVERY SCENE NEEDS TO ADVANCE THE PLOT. If it doesn’t, chuck it! (I promise, it’ll be okay.)
Once you’ve determined what can stay and you’ve deleted the rest, then you can focus on the following layers:
- Characterization–Have you described your characters so people can picture them? Have you made them interesting and quirky? Are they a cliche? (I hope not!)
- Consume Milk Chocolate
- Character Arcs–How does your main characters viewpoint or perspective change as the story progresses?
- Consume chocolate mousse
- Description–Can the reader envision your setting or how your characters look? Make sure this is balanced! Too much of description can bog the pace…too little can leave the reader confused.
- Consume chocolate cake
- Emotion/Conflict–SHOW, don’t TELL! We want to feel what the characters are feeling, not be told, right? And if you want to keep a reader hooked, make sure the characters are at odds somehow.
- Consume Death by Chocolate ice cream
- Dialogue–Tighten, tighten, tighten! We don’t need the “Hi, how are ya?’s” cluttering up a page. Get to the point and be succinct.
- Consume hot cocoa–whit or milk chocolate!
- Action Scenes–Use strong words/verbs and make it clear.
- Consume a dark chocolate truffle…or ten.
- Tension–You need this on EVERY page!!!! (If there’s no tension, it may be a clue to nix something, right?)
- Consume chocolate covered caramels until your fillings fall out.
- Plots and sub-plots–This is something that outliners tackle ahead of time, but could still need a lot of revising depending on how the characters dictate their own story. The plot is the skeleton of your story, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Use sub-plots (maybe with secondary characters) to keep the interest alive.
- Consume a mocha frappuccino.
- Grammar and sentence structure–This is KEY of course. Vary your sentence length. Use the grammar to perfect your voice. Use as few words as possible. If you’ve got a lot of verbiage, you could be slowing down your pace!
- Consume your body weight in M&M’s!
You don’t have to follow these layers in order, but I would recommend saving the grammar and sentence structure until later because why spend time perfecting a sentence if it’s gonna end up getting nixed because you don’t need that scene?