Manuscript Writing and Revisions
Four Steps To A Great Manuscript
by Melissa Alvarez
Step 1: Write the book
Sit down and write. When writing your first draft you want to get as much of your manuscript down from beginning to end. Run with your thoughts, your scenes, and your characters. There will be time to fine tune later. Remember that by the time you finish your final draft you will trim approximately ten percent off of this first draft so write as much as you need to get the story down on paper or on your hard drive.
Step 2: The First Revision
Before you start editing put your manuscript aside and leave it alone for a while. How long should this be? It can be ten minutes to ten days depending upon your time frame, if you’re under a deadline or if you just need the time away from the work. This gives the manuscript time to “cool off” in your mind. When you read it again it will be easier to notice errors. It will either come through loud and clear or you’ll find areas that need work. If you don’t take this time you might miss something important just because you’re deeply involved in the manuscript at that moment.
There are some things you need to check during the second draft of your manuscript. First make sure that your readers meet and get to know your main characters early. If your reader identifies with a likeable character they will keep reading. Show their habits, feelings, what they look like, how they talk. Give the reader a clear three dimensional picture of your characters.
You also want to make sure your story is moving at a relatively quick pace. If it’s to slow the reader will get bored but if it’s to fast they will come away from the book feeling like they missed something. Don’t rush into the ending but don’t take a millennium to get there either. Keep a good strong steady pace and your reader will stay with you and feel satisfied when they finish the book.
Does the story make sense? Are all of your scenes in order? Does the story start in the right place? Is there something at stake for the characters to keep your reader involved? Was it all worth it in the end? Does the beginning grab your attention and pull you in? If it doesn’t – rewrite it. A reader will place a book back on the shelf if that opening sentence doesn’t make them want to know what happens next.
Step 3: Do it again – Revision #2
Now it’s time to trim the fat. Make every word count. Cut adjectives, adverbs, and qualifiers. Eliminate any words that aren’t needed. Use specific nouns and verbs because they do the work within the sentence structure.
Have you stuck with the point of view you established on page one throughout the book? Read your novel out loud. You’ll notice errors and places where your dialogue may not be tight or where your character does something out of character.
The conversation should set the tone of the work instead of you having to add qualifying tags. If the dialogue is written right you can eliminate the “he said, she said” in the dialogue. Just make sure the reader knows who is talking.
Step 4: The Final Draft
Get out the polish and make this baby shine! Print your manuscript out and sit down in the corner of your couch on a day when you can read it from beginning to end undisturbed. Make notes on the page. This isn’t the time for a huge revision but the time to add finishing touches that make the work come to life.