Revising your manuscript is one of the most difficult things in writing. Many authors will tell you that revising a novel is far more difficult than writing it in the first place. And I get it. I have an unpublished novel that revising has been a complete nightmare on. A lot of the problems with it came because I went into that novel with absolutely no plan (in fact, it started out as two non-related short stories that I merged together.)
Anyhow, revision doesn’t need to be as frightening as we make it out to be. One thing that helps for me is to break things down and ask lots of questions. Here are a few to get you started…
Is this scene necessary? What does it accomplish?
As you read through your manuscript, look at each scene individually. As yourself what you hope to accomplish in a single scene. If it drives the plot, contains conflict, and helps develop a character, it is probably okay. But if you can’t answer the simple question of what the scene is supposed to accomplish, you may want to cut it. Think about how your novel would be affected if that scene was cut. If most of it doesn’t matter, take the parts that do matter and trash the rest.
Would a person in real life do this this?
Another thing to look at is the actions of the characters themselves. While your looking at individual scenes, consider how a reader would react if they were put in the same circumstances as the characters. If a reader can’t buy the actions of the character (“Nobody would do that” or, even worse, “What a dumb move”) they won’t believe your story.
Is there a quicker, shorter way to say this?
Find some parts where you’ve got too much description. Or too many “listing” actions. If your prose is starting to wander, or your world-building is taking over huge sections of the book, you might want to cut it down a bit. This goes double for adjectives.
Is this part boring?
This isn’t something you really need to seek out and look for, but if you’re reading through your manuscript and you start drifting off, it’s time to rewrite the scene. If you’re bored, your reader will certainly be bored as well. When you’re looking at that boring scene, you’ve got a couple of options to make it more interesting. First off (see about) speed it up. Maybe it’s just too wordy and you can cut back on some of the description. But if it something else, say a lot of pages where nothing of note happens, either cut it, or make it more interesting by adding some conflict.
Is this ending too predictable?
Endings need to provide a sense of closure to the novel, but they also need to surprise the reader. If the reader can see the ending coming a hundred pages away, they’ll feel like they wasted their time. So the ending does need to shock. But on the flip side, it also needs to make sense within the context of the story. It’s a fine-line, so you may need to rely on beta readers for this one.
So while revising may be difficult, it’s just as important as writing that first draft, and there are ways to make it easier. Figure out what works best for you and feel free to share it in the comments section.