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Writing & Rewriting Your Novel

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

Some quick reminders about the revision process and what editing really means

So, you have that first draft of your novel done or will have it done soon enough. Now it’s time for the revision process. Revising means rewriting. It means understanding that our first draft is just the piece of clay that we’ve put a few indentations into, but that still needs a good amount of work put into it so that the statue can emerge. So how do you get started on the revision process?

Well, that’s up to you. I like to read the first draft once through (after letting some time pass from when I finished the first draft), without marking it up or revising. Running through your first draft allows you to start to understand what your novel may be about. It’ll change as you progress in your next draft, but for now you’re starting to see the trees for the forest.

Once you begin the revision/rewriting process, you’ll look to cut, to add, to rewrite, to strengthen, to focus on the things that are important to your novel. You’ll want to kill your darlings, tighten up dialogue, check for consistency in how your characters act, look, speak, and more. We’ll check point of view. We’ll check for conflict. We’ll ask ourselves if our characters are interesting, and if their actions and dialogue work.

What about our descriptions? Are they vivid? You’ll want to be aware of pet words you’ll need to find synonyms for, and you’ll want to make sure you’re not trying to show the reader how smart and lyrical you are, that is, you want to make sure you’re not overwriting. You’ll want to pull out your outline if you’ve done one and check to make sure you’ve been true to it. Or you’ll want to create one now so you can rearrange the events you’ve written into a plot that makes sense.

And what about our transitions between paragraphs and chapters? Are they smooth? Or are they clunky and distracting. We’ll focus on our ending—does it work? Will it leave the reader satisfied? And do we have a beginning, a middle, and an end?

Page length is something to focus on (remember, 250-300 pages is normally what we’re shooting for). So, if you’ve gotten everything down and your first draft is 400 pages, you’ll want to condense that down somehow, which’ll happen through the revision process.

If you want to get an agent, you’ll have to work at it. Even if you’re just starting out and haven’t written a manuscript that’s ready for an agent to see, go to conferences and network with anyone and everyone—agents, editors, authors, etc. Getting recommended to an agent by someone in your network is a great way of making it happen. You’ll need to query as well, but it’s a numbers game—the more you’re out there making connections, the likelier you are to get noticed. Also, submit your work to literary journals. Literary agents (or their assistants) read journals, and if something in there tickles their fancy, you might just get a call.

*Remember: Be brutal. Cut the unnecessary. Shape the narrative so that it makes sense. Don’t leave any loose ends. And then proofread, proofread, proofread before sending it off to someone (or a few people) you trust to give you constructive criticism. Then, if anything they say makes sense, get back to your book and revise again. You’re a pro now. And pros do what they have to to get as close to perfection as they can. Good luck.

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