Yes, that's right, revision has a nasty bite. It can fester. I know gross, right? It's sort of like Hagrid's Monster Book of Monsters, you have to know how to approach it. And if you do it just right, you won't come away with a scratch, just a shiny new manuscript. So how does it work, this safe approach?
No, you don't actually need special gloves, or a cattle prod, what you need is a game plan. Start with this checklist:
- Have I let it sit long enough to give myself some space? This could mean different things to different people, but you definitely need to put it away and do something else for a while - whether that's reading a book, or writing something new, or just going shopping.
- Have I had it critiqued? You have to have other eyes look at it. Period. There are things that you just can't see since your mind automatically fills in spaces because you know it so well. Beta readers are great for this as well as a good and steady critique group.
- Am I prepared to do what I have to to make it its best? Meaning chopping, injecting, and otherwise mutilating it.
Yep. Read it. Some people find it helpful to print it out first. I like using my Kindle. Either way, read it like you're reading a book, and make note of ANYTHING that stands out. You may have to make a separate pass for each topic. That's up to you. There are many questions to address when doing this, but here are a few major ones:
- Plot - does the story follow a predictable and logical arc? Have you answered all the questions presented and does everything come together smoothly? Have you used foreshadowing and clues, without hitting the reader over the head?
- Character - How soon do you really empathize with your MC? This can be hard when you are so attached. But pretend you're just meeting and give it a go. Are your other characters fully developed? How can you add dimension?
- Dialogue - Is it natural? Too conversational, or does every line count? Is it clear who is speaking? Have you broken it up with enough description and action (look at the physical page, is it line after line after line of dialogue?)
- World - Are you characters constantly interacting with the world around them? Do you weave the world into the story or does it come in clumps of descriptive paragraphs. Do you go overboard (be honest) or is it just the right amount? Does the description reflect the mood? Can it be an obstacle in and of itself?
- Info-dump - How'd you do? Did you take a bulldozer and let her rip? Or did you trickle the info as needed? Did you get us invested first? Did you try to add it through dialogue when both characters already know what they're saying and they're simply reviewing it for the reader's benefit?
- Is each scene both tight and complete. Is each sentence necessary? Have you used too much passive wording? Have you varied sentence structure and length
3. Get to work!
This means no putting yourself down. It was a rough draft. Those happen. :D This is where you prove you're made of tougher stuff. If it feels too overwhelming, just sit and do one chapter at a time, and only re-work it for one issue per pass. Don't forget to save all versions just in case! Once you get back in, you'll no doubt feel much better about it. You might even *gasp* ENJOY revisiting your baby.
And you're going to LOVE how it feels when it's done. Am I right?