What to look for when revising your manuscript

As writers, often we are our own worst critics. We’re typically either too ruthless or not critical enough of our own stories and articles! Worse, we sometimes even hate the good parts of our manuscript and love the poorly written sections.

The challenge then is to know when and how to revise our own writing.

Revising involves patching up and reworking our story. It may require writing new sections or even just starting over. It’s sometimes referred to as “rewriting” or “drafting.”

No matter how good we think our story might be, we need to revise, if only to proofread the piece. Rarely do authors write the perfect piece in their first draft. In addition to typos, there may be structural problems with the manuscript, ranging from word choice to organizational issues.

Three general areas you might revise the manuscript for include:
• Language arts class issues (grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization)
• Structural issues (plot, characters, point of view, etc.)
• Style issues (get rid of the fluff, use active voice, tighten dialogue, etc.)
Most of this blog’s entries are about specific structural and style flaws that can hamper your writing. Troll through it for suggestions about how to address such problems when revising.

Since writers are close to their work – a universe for the story that is in the writer’s head always is larger than the universe for the story on paper – they often may not recognize what needs to be revised. To remove yourself from the story to determine what needs to be revised, set it aside for a few days, then reread. You’ll likely notice that what sounded great when you first penned it is now problematic. Another solution is to have it critiqued by others…not by a spouse, parents, family members or close friends but by someone who writes, reads or edits for a living (Full disclosure here: I own and run such a critiquing service.). In addition, have just one or two readers/editors look it over – if you give it to too many people, you’ll likely receive conflicting advice that only will make revising more difficult, if not impossible.

A final note: While analyzing your own draft, deconstructing the piece into the various elements of fiction (plot, setting, character, point of view, theme, style, etc.) can be beneficial. However, revising the manuscript by focusing on one element at a time probably isn’t. These elements work together to make an integrated whole, and so the story needs to be approached holistically.