Revising An Old Manuscript

 

Revisiting an Old Manuscript

By Janice Seagraves

Hi, this is Janice Seagraves. I’ve the author of nine books and six short stories.

I wrote lots of stories before I was ever published. A lot of those book-length manuscripts were what I learned on. When you first start out you have to write and write and write so you can learn. And I was no different.

Twin Heart is an early book-length manuscript that I had learned on but had never forgotten. The characters in it feel like old dear friends.

Feeling nostalgic one day, I pulled Twin Heart’s file out and started revising it. I’ve learned a lot over the ten years since I wrote the manuscript and though I should be able to fix it, no problem.

It was a mess!

Missing punctuations, run-on sentences, and drifting POVs. Just to name a few.

I have a lot of work to do if I’m ever going to get my dear old friend up to snuff.

The first two chapters weren’t so bad, but the further along I dug the worse it got. Some chapters read like filler and didn’t further the plot or add anything to the storyline. And there are thirty-two chapters in my manuscript.

Thirty-two.

And over 115,000 words. My manuscript can certainly use some trimming.

Things I’m looking out for as I revise my manuscript:

  • Fix common mistakes: errors in punctuation, repeated words, drifting POVs.
  • Do the sentences make sense?
  • Are too many sentences started with a -ing word?
  • Do the sentences use it as a subject of the sentence instead of a noun?
  • Are words spelled right or an I using a wrong word choice?
  • Break down run-on sentences into smaller sentences.
  • Delete unnecessary words.
  • Kill my darlings.
  • Read the manuscript out loud.

Once I get the problems taken care of, I’ll have to write out the manuscript chapter by chapter as if I was writing a synopsis so I can figure out what can stay and what can go.

The delete button has already become my friend.

Now, why did I start this project again?

Oh, yeah, dear old friends that are the characters in the manuscript.

*sigh*

At least the bones of the story are good. I just have to delete, rewrite, and make stronger a bunch of the bad sentences to make the good shine through.

Have you ever dragged out an old manuscript with designs on fixing it?

What happened?

 

Revision Hell by Janice Seagraves

 Revision Hell

by Janice Seagraves

1) Do a read through. Read your manuscript like a reader. Either print it out, load it into your ereader or change the font and read it on your computer. Note: changing the font will make your manuscript look different and you can see it with fresh eyes.

2) Keep a note pad by you as you read. Take notes, but keep it simple: Ch. 1 needs a better opening hook. Ch. 2 starts out too slow.

3) After you do your read through, go through it again, but this time write each scene down.

I won’t kid you, this is the hardest part of revision, but it is the most rewarding. Write it simply, Ch. 1: scene 3: the scene where the hero and heroine meet is too slow.  Ch. 2: scene 1: the wake up scene is too cliché.

4) As you write each scene add a number from 1 to 10 for its importance to your story. Note: Don’t revise until you write all the scenes down.

5) After you have all the scenes down, you will be able to look each over each scene in your story to see which ones you want to delete. This step helps you see the bigger picture, so to speak.

6) But don’t delete yet!

7) Open a new file on your computer and name it “deleted scenes” with the title of your ms. In this file you’ll paste in the scenes you are taking out. It makes taking out those scenes nearly painless, and when you reread your ms you can see if your ms flows better without them. If it doesn’t then you can always put it back in.

8) After you have taken out the scenes that slowed your prose, reread your entire manuscript like a reader. If it flows, you’re done.

9) Send it to a beta reader, or if you’re feeling really confident sent it to a publisher.