Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Editing Your Manuscript: Stages 4-6

To recap: We’ve covered the first four stages of editing your manuscript –
  • Stage 1: Put it aside
  • Stage 2: Edit by steps, not marathons
  • Stage 3: Let your baby go
On to Stages 4, 5 & 6:
  • Stage 4: Re-write some more
  • Stage 5: Read it aloud
  • Stage 6: Synopsize

Stage 4: Re-write some more

Once you have all the comments, both written and oral, from your readers, work on the manuscript some more. Spend some time thinking about what your group has said and how you can incorporate their ideas and suggestions. Once you’ve decided what to change (and what not to change) and how to work those changes into the manuscript, then sit down and do the work. If you’ve thought it out ahead of time and even worked out the logistics of how to make the changes and have those changes flow smoothly, the work will be not only easy but fun (by fun, I mean enjoyable as you see the improvements you’re making).

If, after another draft, you feel you've made major changes in the manuscript, consider sending it back through your group or onto new, fresh readers.

Stage 5: Read it aloud.

Try reading your manuscript aloud. Either to yourself to get the flow of the dialogue and the pacing -- or onto tapes so you can play it back while you take notes.

If you tape the book, maybe you could give the tapes to a trusted friend or reader and ask them to comment on the flow and pacing, characterization, all those things you've labored over during the re-write.

Stage 6: Synopsize.

Write a logline -- condense the essence of your manuscript down to 20 or 25 words. Can you do it? If not, then spend some time thinking of the theme or major turning point of your book. Once the logline is done, expand it into a one-page summary. Then expand that into a three-page synopsis. Not only is this a good thing to do in terms of being ready to query the book -- agents often ask for a synopsis - it forces you to know the skeleton, the backbone, of your story. I put this as Stage 6, but it works just as well as Stage 2, before you begin the major re-write.

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