Posted: 23 Oct 2010 09:07 PM PDTHere is a list of things to consider when you start to revise your manuscript.
Remember what Anita Nolan says, “The end is just the beginning.” It is so true.
Force yourself to cut, tighten and throw away even things you love if it doesn’t move the story forward.
Give your yourself the time to let your manuscript mature. Using this list can go a long way towards helping you send out a polished submission.
1. Telling instead of showing.
Show a character’s feelings by creating pictures. Think how a movie would portray someone’s mood.
2. Keep it Fresh
Write as though it’s happening now, not as though you’re telling the past.
Are you using trite phrases, cliches, or deliberately unusual words? You’d better have a very good reason for doing so.
3. Weak characters.
The villain in your story must be a worthy opponent of the hero.
4. Check the point of view…
Write from the view point of the most involved character, not an onlooker.
5. Mood and sentence length.
Keep sentences short to portray tension, longer for relaxation.
6. Do any sentences begin with the words “There” or “It”?
They can almost certainly benefit from revision.
Instead of: There were three gunmen who had sworn to kill him. It was hard to believe.
Write: Three gunmen had sworn to kill him. He couldn’t believe it.
7. Passive voice.
Instead of: ‘He is being watched by the children’
Write: ‘the children watch him’.
8. Complex past..
Where possible, keep past tense simple.
Instead of: ‘he had gone’
Write: ‘he went’.
9. Author intrusion.
Are you as narrator intruding on the story through witticisms, editorializing, or self-consciously, inappropriately “fine” writing?
Instead of: ‘He wondered if she would leave, and considered apologizing’
Write: ‘Would she leave? Perhaps he should apologize.’
Publishers want to read a story, not read the author telling a story. Keep out of it.
10. Check sequence.
Instead of: ‘She fell to the floor when David hit her’
Write: ‘David hit her. She fell to the floor.’
11. Avoid naming in dialogue
To avoid speech tags some writers fall into using names in dialogue, which isn’t natural.
Instead of: ‘Don’t hit me, David’
‘Mary, you’re asking for it.’
Write: ‘Don’t hit me.’ Mary shrank away from him.
‘You’re asking for it.’ His fists clenched.
These are action tags.
12. Look for unnecessary words and terms.
Instead of: ‘Suddenly she noticed his presence. His figure stood out in the crowd.’
Write: ‘Suddenly she noticed him. He stood out in the crowd.’
Note: Minimise the amount of ‘ly’ words.
13. Simultaneous Actions.
Instead of: ‘She packed her bag and went to the car’,
Write: ‘She packed her bag then went to the car.’
14. When actions are simultaneous keep verbs in agreement.
Instead of: ‘As she drove tears were rolling down her face,’
Write: ‘As she drove tears rolled down her face.’
15. Check for places where a sentence could be read wrong.
Instead of: ‘her eye fell on a piece of paper’
Write: ‘her gaze fell on a piece of paper’.
16. Are you grammatically correct? Is your spelling and punctuation correct? This is not mere detail work. It is basic craft. I run into writers who say, “Well, if the editor likes it, they’ll work with me on the grammar.” Good luck with that.
17. Is the prose fluent, varied in rhythm, and suitable in tone to the type of story you’re telling?
18. Check to see if you are repeating what you’ve already told your readers? Are you telegraphing your punches?
19. Look at your manuscript. Is there enough white space? Are there any long passages of text? Fine a way to break them up.
20. Let your manuscript sit. You will find it easier to look at it with fresh eyes.
21. Before submitting read your manuscript aloud. Mark any places where you stumble. If you can find a friend who is willing to read it to you, that is another way to pick up on things.
Hope this list helps. Remember this is just to get you started. You’ll still want to do all the other things we have discussed about revising.