Writer Wednesday

Writer Wednesday: 4 Reasons Not to Rush Revisions

I’ll admit it. I’m an impatient writer.

When I’ve finished the first draft of a book, I can’t wait to get it out into the world. I want to share the story that’s moved me and kept me up at night, the characters who’ve made me cry, and the novel’s eclectic and wonderful setting (this time, New Orleans).

So, when I finally typed “The End” on the last page of my third domestic suspense manuscript in December, I was thrilled… but I also knew, in my heart, that it wasn’t ready for prime time.

Thanks to an amazing friend with fabulous connections, I was fortunate to connect with two powerhouses in the publishing industry, both of whom read the first draft.

They agreed. STOP. Do not pass Go. Revise. Revise. Revise.

Here’s what my advisors recommended. First, don’t rush the revisions. Then, carefully tackle these 4 manuscript challenges:

  1. A few of my characters needed more depth.
    • Takeaway: I needed to fill in the character’s lives, pre-chaos. I needed to share more about their feelings, relationships, hope and dreams so that the reader really has an opportunity to connect with them.
  2. Two characters were causing confusion.
    • Takeaway: I’d created two male father figures and did not draw enough distinction between them. Anything, I repeat, anything that causes a reader to stop reading needs to be fixed or tossed out!
  3. The story’s middle needed more consistent danger and tension.
    • Takeaway: Readers need a reason to turn pages… so deliver the suspense!
  4. The big reveal at the end needed more foreshadowing.
    • Takeaway: Weave clues early and often into the manuscript, giving readers a satisfying a-ha moment–and much to think about–when they finish the last page.

As I dove into the revisions, I also put the manuscript away for three weeks. I didn’t touch a page. I did the following instead:

  1. Created a character chart, outlining important qualities and traits. This is something I usually put together during the outlining process for every book I’ve written, but skipped this time. Lesson: Do the chart!

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  1. Consulted writing reference books  – During the holiday break, I reread The Moral Premise, Write Your Novel from the Middle, and Story Fix. All excellent resources on story structure, theme, tension, and getting to the heart of your novel.

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  1. Researched – To go deeper with my novel, I needed to know more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and clinical trials being run to treat PTSD symptoms. Fascinating stuff!
  2. Perfected my elevator pitch – I spent oodles of time writing and rewriting (by hand) the 30-second version of my story (the time it takes to ride up an elevator while explaining your book to a total stranger). Highly recommended. If you can’t explain it, no one else will be able to either!

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All said and done, the two-week break, the reading, research, writing, and charting made all of the difference in the world. I’m recharged, refreshed, and happily making significant progress revising the manuscript.

Have any revising tips and tricks? I’d love for you to share them!

xo, 

Laura

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14 Comments

  1. Great tips! Once the big plot points are done, I work on my language. I run a check on the frequency I use words (I do this in Scrivener, but I imagine there’s a way to do it in Word as well), and make sure I haven’t overused anything. I also keep a list of phrases I know I use too much–my writing quirks–and I search and delete them.

    1. Yes! SO important…. one of my friends is excellent at pointing out my over-used phrases … we often laugh about what I’ve decided to focus on in a particular manuscript! I do try to check those repetitive phrases in Word as well! I have Scrivener, but am not utilizing it well right now … and am dying to do the tutorial so that I can really use the program to its full capacity!!
      xo, Laura

  2. I love your character outline! I can see how this would be so helpful, especially during the revision stage when things become extra tight and streamlined. Thanks for the visuals and tips!

    1. Lauren – Happy to send it off to you! It’s just something I whipped up that helps me keep things straight “at a glance!”

      Glad this was helpful 🙂 Laura

  3. Great post! I’ve found that I have trouble rushing my ending. It’s like – I see the finish line, get me there! It’s happened that I’ve gotten a lot of “close but no cigar” with agents…but after polishing had two novels traditionally published by small presses…

    My question: I have a hard time putting the manuscript down for three weeks—I’m afraid after three weeks my “motivation ” will go blah. Instead, I try to work on short stories or something to fill that time creatively… what about you?

    1. Hey Dawn – thank you for sharing your thoughts! I used to have a hard time putting the manuscript down for 3-4 weeks, but now I’ve realized it’s a necessity. After waiting a few weeks, I find that I see the plot line more clearly, find tiny gaps in the story, discover where a character could be more fleshed out, and am able to enhance dialogue, setting, and description. It’s amazing what that time does … I have much better motivation to tackle revisions after a break.

      Yes, I work on creative projects – brainstorming another book, catching up on reading for pleasure, blog posts, etc. It’s a great way to recharge. I often read something out of my typical suspense genre… The Martian or The Bone Clocks, for example, instead of my go-to Lisa Gardner and Robert Galbraith thrillers and suspense! I learn so much from every novel I read, so it’s another way to keep thinking and creativity fresh!

      xo, Laura

      1. Well, that’s great advice. I think that, while the emphasis is on writing every day, there are times when we should NOT write–at least on that same project (we can write other stuff).

        Does it make sense when I said I needed someone to give me permission to be “hands off” for a while — LOL.

        I usually try to read novels in the same genre of what I’m working on, but a good break from that genre may be a wonderful idea as well. Thanks!

        1. Absolutely! And yes… sometimes we all need someone to tell us it’s okay to not write! My editor, bless her heart, finally talked me into it.

          It’s so much fun to explore other genres – I end up with so many new ideas and a deep appreciation for all of the wonderful authors out there that I may not have discovered otherwise!!

  4. I like to email a copy of mine to my Kindle so that when I come to revise the novel, I’m reading it as a reader would, instead of inside Word! Then I add notes where necessary. It certainly helps me to pick up on stuff that I’d probably miss since changing the context of the story (i.e. end device instead of process device) helps me to view it with fresh eyes.

    1. Great idea! It sure helps to have that option (device v laptop). Thank you for sharing it!

  5. Great job finishing the first draft! I’m trying this technique right now where I just bang out a dirty first draft and then do all the things you’ve done in the second draft (research, ensuring the characters have depth, the plot makes sense, etc.) Hopefully that can speed up my writing process and keep me from getting stuck in the planning stages. I’d love to read more posts on your editing process.

    1. Would love to hear how your new technique works out! I adore a fast first draft 🙂

      (and I will have to come up with a few more editing posts soon !)

  6. Such excellent advice. I wish more writers would heed it. As I was working on revision after revision of my memoir, friends kept pestering me to start sending it out, but I knew it wasn’t ready yet. And then, when I thought it was, I paid for a full-manuscript critique and got excellent suggestions for one more complete revision. I know we have to stop somewhere, but we also need to temper the temptation to rush.

    1. It’s a tough balance, isn’t it? It’s definitely something I have learned with time and much trial and error! Thank you Nan!! <3

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