I’ll admit it. I’m an impatient writer.
When I’ve finished the first draft of a book, I can’t wait to get it out into the world. I want to share the story that’s moved me and kept me up at night, the characters who’ve made me cry, and the novel’s eclectic and wonderful setting (this time, New Orleans).
So, when I finally typed “The End” on the last page of my third domestic suspense manuscript in December, I was thrilled… but I also knew, in my heart, that it wasn’t ready for prime time.
Thanks to an amazing friend with fabulous connections, I was fortunate to connect with two powerhouses in the publishing industry, both of whom read the first draft.
They agreed. STOP. Do not pass Go. Revise. Revise. Revise.
Here’s what my advisors recommended. First, don’t rush the revisions. Then, carefully tackle these 4 manuscript challenges:
A few of my characters needed more depth.
Takeaway: I needed to fill in the character’s lives, pre-chaos. I needed to share more about their feelings, relationships, hope and dreams so that the reader really has an opportunity to connect with them.
Two characters were causing confusion.
Takeaway: I’d created two male father figures and did not draw enough distinction between them. Anything, I repeat, anything that causes a reader to stop reading needs to be fixed or tossed out!
The story’s middle needed more consistent danger and tension.
Takeaway: Readers need a reason to turn pages… so deliver the suspense!
The big reveal at the end needed more foreshadowing.
Takeaway: Weave clues early and often into the manuscript, giving readers a satisfying a-ha moment–and much to think about–when they finish the last page.
As I dove into the revisions, I also put the manuscript away for three weeks. I didn’t touch a page. I did the following instead:
Created a character chart, outlining important qualities and traits. This is something I usually put together during the outlining process for every book I’ve written, but skipped this time. Lesson: Do the chart!
Consulted writing reference books – During the holiday break, I reread The Moral Premise, Write Your Novel from the Middle, and Story Fix. All excellent resources on story structure, theme, tension, and getting to the heart of your novel.
Researched – To go deeper with my novel, I needed to know more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and clinical trials being run to treat PTSD symptoms. Fascinating stuff!
Perfected my elevator pitch – I spent oodles of time writing and rewriting (by hand) the 30-second version of my story (the time it takes to ride up an elevator while explaining your book to a total stranger). Highly recommended. If you can’t explain it, no one else will be able to either!
All said and done, the two-week break, the reading, research, writing, and charting made all of the difference in the world. I’m recharged, refreshed, and happily making significant progress revising the manuscript.
Have any revising tips and tricks? I’d love for you to share them!