We can all agree writing is a joy. It’s fun and many of us make our living doing it. But, there are parts of the publishing aspect that can be frustrating and difficult. Most of us find revision to be the most difficult hurdle. “I like it the way it is. Everything there is important and I don’t see anything that needs changing.” How many of us have approached the revision process with that mindset? I think we all have, at times. In other words, you are not alone.
Although I am an editor as well as a writer, I don’t find revising my work to be easy. However, I’ve collected tidbits of advice from several writers and editors. I’ve found them helpful, so I’m sharing them here:
- Revise big stuff first, make small edits later. This doesn’t mean you should not correct obvious typos and grammar errors as you notice them. However, you shouldn’t be actively tinkering with word choice until after you’ve nailed down the structure of your piece.
- Put the manuscript down and walk away. Writers need at least a little distance from their manuscripts before jumping into revision.
- Scan the whole manuscript without reading. Scanning can make big problems more obvious than a writer might not notice when reading closely.
- Read carefully. Take your time and read every word. Then, read it out loud. This will help you catch obvious errors and check for smoothness or the “flow.”
- Look for ways to be more concise with your language. Can you turn a 15-word sentence into an 8-word sentence? Can you turn an 8-sentence paragraph into a 5-sentence paragraph? Less almost always means more for the reader.
- Use active voice over passive voice. There may be occasions for using passive voice, but for the most part be active.
- Vary sentence structure. Don’t fall into the trap of always writing: Noun + Verb + Noun = Sentence. Even if it’s grammatically correct, using the same pattern over and over again will make your manuscript boring. Don’t feel like you have to be creative with every sentence; just check that you’re not falling into a monotonous pattern.
- Save each round of revisions as its own file. Start with the first draft. Then, the second draft. Then, the third draft and so on. Saving these files provides a record of your changes and shows your development of the story.
- Have someone read the manuscript. The more eyes the better, because they’ll be more objective when reading, and they’re less likely to make “leaps of logic” than you, the writer, might. It is always best to ask someone other than a relative, who naturally will be biased.
- Print the manuscript for a final edit. There are things you’ll catch on paper that you won’t on the screen.
Take your time with revision. Set it aside for a few days, a week if you have the time. Then return to the work with a fresh attitude. Save your revised version in a separate file. Be sure you have addressed all of the editor’s comments. Do not ignore them. If there are some changes that you don’t agree with, write the editor a note explaining why the revision called for will change the meaning of your work. It’s best not to take exception to more than one or two editorial changes. If you and the editor are far apart on the way the piece is written, you may wish to withdraw the work and resubmit to another publisher. That, of course, is beyond the topic at hand.
Revision is necessary to polish the work for the reader, and the reader should be foremost in your mind. If you use these revision tips, you’ll be ahead with your revision process and find the editor is not the ogre you imagined.
Dr. Robena Egemonye retired as an educator with over forty years of experience. She was nominated and selected to “Who’s Who among America’s Teachers”, 2005-2006. She was also listed in the Outstanding American Teachers National Honor Roll. THE FENCE MENDER is her first published novel.
Fourteen-year-old Blue MacGregor has been wheeled into the Raven Hills Regional ER. Why is he so badly hurt, barely clinging to life? What happened to him? Some of the ER staff dismissively refer to Blue as ‘poor white trash’ from Ergo Estates, a local trailer park. However, Dr. Vera Drake, the ER physician in charge, is intrigued. Blue reminds her of Marshal, her grandson. Dr. Vera learns that Blue is one of the last purveyors of a dying art –he is a fence mender. She vows to find out how Blue ended up in the ER and to do whatever it takes to ensure that Blue recovers. Will Dr. Vera’s determination to help Blue lead to the truth or place her life as well as his in jeopardy?
TOM XAVIER studied archaeology in Italy and Greece and law in England. He helped run ski mountaineering trips in New Hampshire and bicycling trips in Canada. As a lawyer, he worked on a giant fraud case in England and for the past two decades, he has produced concerts with young musicians from countries around the world. Tom draws on these experiences to write stories filled with magic and adventure. He loves writing books of discovery about girls and boys who travel to amazing places where they learn much about life and even more about themselves.
Would you risk everything just to be cool?
Young Duggan McDuggan really has no choice. Her habit of talking to trees has made her the most teased kid in her village. Duggan would love to stop the teasing but there’s no way she’s going to give up her tree friends. And so she’s worked out a daring plan to journey with her two best friends to Eshmagick, ancient realm of the Faeries. This will certainly stop the teasing. No one in five hundred years has made it there and back again.
For their dangerous journey, Duggan and her friends will need a Faerie guide. Unfortunately, legend says harming a Faerie will bring down a terrible curse and it’s hard to catch a Faerie without hurting it. But when you’re as desperate as Duggan, no curse is too scary to stop you.
Charlene Vermeulen currently lives with her handsome husband and two rescue dogs in Pinehurst, NC. A life-long educator, Charlene has taught 6th-12th grade English, Language Arts, and Academically Gifted classes, along with summer writing and art camps, and worked as a school administrator for five years before retiring to spoil her grandchildren. She has two precious daughters, Anna and Grace, whose names appear in the first book in the series, Jess the Mess. Other than family and her Christian faith, her passions include reading, writing, drawing, hiking, traveling, photography, time with family, and painfully bad puns.
As feisty Jessica moves to yet another middle school, she struggles to stay out of trouble, while living in constant fear that others will find out her family’s dark secrets: Jess’s mom is an alcoholic, her dad left them years ago, and most days Jess struggles just to find food to eat.
Convinced that she is the reason her mother drinks, especially since Jess constantly gets into trouble at school, she lives with the daily pain of her mom’s explosive behavior, and the accompanying shame.
Befriended by sassy, red-headed Anna and cheerful, encouraging Grace, Jess balances the joy of friendship with the hurt she carries with her.
Will self-proclaimed Jess the Mess open her heart and life to her new friends? What happens when her secrets are revealed? Jess learns that everyone can change, but some change comes with a price.