I wrote my first inspirational Christian fiction historical romance a couple of years ago, and blithely charged on to begin (and finish!) my second book. About that time, my tough, but excellent critique partner got wind of my thoughts about starting book three. To paraphrase, she said, “You are not going to start another book without revising the one you just finished.” Cowed, I humbly assented and began to climb the learning curve of revision. Revising the book comes AFTER it has passed through a critique partner or two.
Briefly, here is some of what I learned, including five main steps I actually did (there are 100s of suggested revision steps/techniques out there). Most books on the subject of writing have chapters on revision skills.
1. After setting your manuscript aside for at least two weeks, read it again with a fresh eye and a pen/pencil in hand. Try to keep reading at a good pace, making minimal (but cogent) notes in the margins. Jot down things like “fix”, “add detail”, “add scene”, “anchor in setting”, “move”.
2. Make the changes you have marked above.
3. Look at all chapter openings and closing and make sure they have good hook factor.
4. Vary chapters openings between dialogue, action, narrative and description.
5. Look at chapters and try to have them all very similar in length.
Some other great tips that might help you to have in mind as you are going through:
~ have something visual on every page
~ ground every scene in setting
~ strengthen characters by tagging them physically and psychologically
~ read the book out loud
~ check to make sure the book is written in scenes & each scene is a story in miniature and has conflict
~ search out “bad” words that sneak in and deaden your book such as “seemed”, “thought”, “knew”, “now”, “just”, etc.
~ include something unexpected in every scene
I have done this with both of my books, A Match for Melissa and A Refuge for Rosanna, and have started writing my third, An Escape for Ellie, with a good conscience and peace of mind that the first two books are as good as I can make them… for now. When, and if they get into the hands of a professional editor, I will welcome a new learning curve to climb.