After months (or even years!) of working on your novel, the sense of achievement when you’ve finally finished that first draft is unlike any other. It’s only natural that you’ll want to release it into the world as soon as you can; you might even be pretty sick of your characters, the plot, or even of writing itself! The last thing you’re probably going to feel like doing is going back over everything again, scrutinizing every word and rewriting scenes you’ve already worked so hard on. But the truth is that you are not yet finished with your book: revision is key!
The only certainties in life are death and revision
So many authors have a really difficult time with the revision process, and this is totally understandable. It’s tedious, often a little boring, and can even be quite painful; sometimes you have to make difficult calls about cutting out chunks of your manuscript for the good of your novel as a whole. That’s not an easy thing to do when you’ve put so much work into every last word you’ve written.
But the cold hard truth is that every manuscript needs revision. Even bestselling authors have to hone and refine the first drafts of their books before they’re ready to be released. As you’ll know from experience, characters and plotlines evolve as you write, and your finished draft may look very different from what you had in mind when you started out. Revision is an essential step in honing a coherent, well-considered storyline and ensuring that your plot and characters are properly developed.
Why revision is vital
More often than not, revising a manuscript – really, properly revising a manuscript – will take longer than completing the first draft. This usually isn’t good news for authors! Certainly, it’s a difficult thing to accept when you’ve already invested a lot of time and effort into a project. But it’s because you’re already so invested that you owe it to yourself, your story and your readers to make sure that your novel is the best it can be. Don’t undermine your talent and your work by trying to take shortcuts. That old adage applies here: “Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.”
One of the most difficult aspects of revision is finding the right perspective from which to approach your draft. When you’ve worked on the same project for so long, it can be hard to achieve that ‘distance’ needed to objectively evaluate what needs to be revised. You have all the details of the story and the characters in your head, but have you actually conveyed it all to your reader? Does your story make sense? Are your characters believable, interesting and relatable?
It can really help to take a break from your manuscript once you’ve finished the first full draft. Take a little time off. Think about other projects, concentrate on other things, walk the dog, paint your nails. Don’t look at your novel for a while. When you eventually do return to your draft, it will be with ‘fresh eyes’ that will allow you to see any potential for improvement. (Or even better – kick start the revision process the right way with our manuscript assessment or developmental editing services!)
What revision means for self-publishing authors
It is at this point in the process that traditionally-published authors will have the help of an in-house editor to assist them through the revision process. The editor will work with them through the rough draft, picking up any errors or inconsistencies and making suggestions for improvement. These days, self-publishers have this luxury available to them, too! Professional freelance editors can fulfill that role in guiding the author through revising their manuscripts, ensuring that the end product is the best version possible. The big difference? Self-publishers need to pay their editors before they see any return in this investment in their novels; but this also means that the editor is accountable only to the author rather than the publisher, and will always put the author’s best interests and needs first.
Revision, like writing, is a lonely process. But with the help of an editor, it doesn’t have to be. The role of the editor is a complex (and seemingly mysterious!) one, particularly when it comes to self-publishing. This will be the subject of an upcoming blog post, so keep an eye out!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced during the revision process? Let us know in the comments section below!