It might very well be one of the most mind-numbing tasks associated with publishing a book but it’s also one of the most important. I’m sure a lot of people would rather skip it altogether or at least shorten it in order to move on to something more worthwhile but that would be a mistake. It may not be the most glamorous part of writing but it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. Below you’ll find my personal revision process for novels. Hopefully it can be of use…
The first draft will undoubtedly be the easiest. All it requires you to do is put together a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Other than that it’s the closest thing you’ll get to having a vacation. I know that after this part is complete it’s tempting to want to slap a cover on it and get it out there to the rest of the world but just remember, this is only the first step!
Now that you’ve actually started (and finished) the book you’ve wanted to write for who knows how long take a second and pat yourself on the back. Set it aside for a few days and allow yourself time to decompress. Afterward sit down, scroll to the first page, and read what you’ve written. Read your work in its entirety, from beginning to end. And not just the few paragraphs here or there you might love but the whole thing. The goal isn’t to make it perfect, just to fix major issues regarding spelling, grammar, and/or coherence. You need to look at it from the reader’s perspective. As good as you think it is you’re sure to be surprised when you take a second look.
This was the most grueling aspect for me when the time came. I had to reconcile all of the basic word choices and repetition needed in order to simply complete the first draft. In hindsight using the same words a few hundred times wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made but without that I would’ve never finished in the first place. Fortunately for me Microsoft Word exists and with it the “Find” option. It allowed me to hone in on excessive terms (i.e. said, look, feel) and in turn forced me to elevate my vocabulary from convenient verbiage to a methodical symphony (or maybe just something catchy). After going over my manuscript dozens of times and varying my choice of words/phrases I was finally comfortable enough with the end result to move forward.
The second draft involved dealing with glaring issues that nearly anyone reading your work for the first time could identify. At this point it’s more about the details. It’s about being honest with yourself and objective to where you can pinpoint the areas that need work and go in with surgical precision. Removing unnecessary sentences or paragraphs while expounding on sections that were glossed over is what should be done here. Just be sure that whatever gets added to your novel also adds to the story. The additional content should give new insight or depth to characters or situations otherwise you’re just wasting your time. You should also check out the online reviews of well-known authors as well as those of lesser known authors in your genre. See if they have any one or two star reviews. If so, figure out if you’re making any of the same mistakes and course-correct.
There are some people who’ll probably let others read their novels before this stage, but I’m not one of them. I decided to wait until I had everything as good as I could get it on my own before seeking professional help. Once I reached that plateau I sought the services of a woman named Cassandra who specializes in young adult novels and requested she do a developmental edit on my manuscript (big picture stuff like plot, pacing, character development, etc.). It’s very important to contact editors that actually deal with (and enjoy) the age range you’re writing for and your genre. This makes the process go much more smoothly and will lead to better results in the end. It’s also important not to take their critiques personally. They’re professionals who were hired for a specific purpose and whatever input they provide or changes they suggest should at least be considered. Remember, they didn’t come to you, you went to them, so set your pride to the side.
It’s at this juncture where things get dicey. Locating a few good beta-readers to give you feedback is crucial. You might want to avoid friends and relatives, though. There’s a chance you’ll either be inundated with support or criticism, but regardless that leaves you without the assistance you really need. Co-workers may offer a better choice as well as online beta-readers. Social media sites are a good place to look and you’re more likely to find an impartial audience. It might also help if you put together a questionnaire (or get one from online) you’d like them to fill out after reading your novel. This can aid your writing process by narrowing down any rough spots left over from the last draft.
I consider this to be the home stretch, where all of the hard work, sweat, and tears finally pays off. Contact the editor you used for your fifth draft (unless they weren’t any good) and this time request a copy edit for your work (this will help ensure the “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed). Even with this final edit, though, you should still read over the novel one more time but as you do compare it to other authors in the genre. Find the best-selling heavy hitters and see how it compares (again, while remaining completely objective). The reason for this is because these individuals will officially be your competition once you put your book out into the world. If you feel confident after your final read and comparison then go ahead and give yourself one more pat on the back…now you have a novel.