You finished the first draft of your manuscript. Yay! Time to celebrate. Take a few days. Better yet, take a couple of weeks, or months. You need distance. You’ve been too close to your work. For months, years, forever it seems, you’ve lived with these characters, pushed them through twists and turns, cried with them as you’ve led them through agony, heartbreak, and despair on the road to the finish, where the bad guy finally gets what he deserves and your protagonist wins the war or the love of his life. Or not.
Along the way, if you’re like me, you’ve put your work before a critique group, or several critique groups. You’ve revised according to their suggestions after each reading. By the time you have finished writing “The End” you hope all the changes have been made. After all, you’ve been editing all along.
Your allotted time is over and you pick up that jewel of a manuscript thinking, “I’ll read it through one day, fix any mistakes I missed, and send it off.”
Think again. You start reading. Then you smack your forehead. “Is this the book I thought was so great? What happened?”
What happened was the POV character you had in the beginning is no longer a main character. You changed that somewhere toward the middle of the book. That’s a major change. That takes a major rewrite. The new POV character now appears in the beginning, not the middle. Not only do the characters interact differently with the change, but the scene and sequel may have a totally different tone.
Are your characters’ motivations making sense? A motivation you thought you fixed in the first draft doesn’t work now. A revision may affect the ending.
These are major changes that take longer to revise and rewrite. Along the way, you will find problems with sentence structure and word choices. Passive words like was, had, is, could, would, might, that, can be changed to active voice. Look for adverbs and substitute them for stronger verbs. Take out tags that could be substituted with body language.
What about your timeline? Have you got the days mixed up? The time of day? What is the weather like? What season is it? Is he wearing a coat in Houston during August? Add the five senses to bring your scene to life. What does the room smell like? How does that sliver of wood feel like against his finger? You want your reader as involved in the scene as your characters are. If these senses are not in your first draft, now is the time to insert them.
Revising is as important as creating that first draft. You have to have the basic meat to add the flavor and side dishes to the plate.
So, now you have made all the changes and revisions. Is it ready to send out for publication? No. You need at least one more run through. I suggest you read it in a different format. I like to print it all out.
Some writers also read it out loud. Another way is to change the font. The purpose is to be able to see the manuscript in a different way. That’s when you catch all the little errors you missed before.