Tips for Rewriting Your Manuscript, Part 2

Via Flickr | Tanvi Jaiman
Via Flickr | Tanvi Jaiman

Last week Part 1 of Tips for Rewriting provided three tips:

(1) There is no perfect first draft;

(2) Never look back; and

(3) Write, wait, edit.

Today I have other tips I hope you will find as helpful as I did as I came across them in reading on the topic of rewriting.

Tips in these two posts may not be in an exact order or progression with rewriting your manuscript, but I believe you can fit the puzzle pieces together.

 

 

Picking up with last week’s list:

Tip 4. Are You Bored?

While reading and revising your manuscript, ask the all important question, “Am I bored?” If you answer “yes,” then heed the advice often attributed to writer and teacher Margot Livesey:

If you are bored, it’s not because you’ve read that section so many times, it’s because it’s boring.

Remember great writing is always engaging. Think of the books you’ve read and re-read and read again. If the writing isn’t great writing, you are not going to waste your time reading it. Why then would someone want to read your writing if it isn’t great writing?

Lesson Learned: Make certain your writing is not boring you. If it is, your reader will be bored too.

Tip 5. Distance Yourself from Your Writing

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

This is hard! You know what you intended to write and most likely, you feel good about your manuscript. It is also likely that you will read your intentions into the manuscript.

Do something to trick yourself into believing you’re looking at something other than your own manuscript–use a different font, change the margins, use a different medium, work in a different setting. Before reading the text again, divorce yourself from the manuscript so that you read it as if reading it for the first time.

Lesson Learned: Distance yourself from your writing before reading it again. Trick yourself into seeing it as your readers will see it.

Tip 6. Structural Changes, Polishing and Finishing Touches

You’ve finished your first draft, celebrated like crazy, and taken some time away from your baby. Now it’s time to begin your first rewrite or second draft. A good time for structural changes.

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

The second draft and/or read through is the time to watch for major gaps. You are given the opportunity to rewrite sentences, paragraphs, scenes, or even whole chapters. Or you may decide to rewrite the entire book. There is no hard and fast rule here. You make this decision.

In your third drafting, you polish your manuscript, much like sanding down a house’s foundation. And lastly, those last finishing touches.

Basically, the first draft digs your book’s foundation, the second frames the structure, and the third entails finish work.

Lesson Learned: Think of drafts as if they were the phases of a construction job: foundation, framing and finishing. 

Tip 7. The Eyes Have It.

One important part of writing and rewriting is asking others to read your manuscript. Another set or multiple sets of eyes will see things you, the writer, will miss because of your closeness to your work.

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

Remember your first draft is for your eyes only, but when you know your manuscript is ready for other eyes, send it out to as many friends as you can. These readers are called beta readers. Beta readers’ fresh eyes help you see what your book really is, not just what you think it is.

Lesson Learned: The writer is too close to his or her work to be the only reader at the end of the day.

These tips and the tips in Part 1 barely scratch the surface of the tips, suggestions, and mountains of advice for revising and rewriting manuscripts available through books and the Internet. What I have shared are those tips that have come to me thus far in reading, revising and rewriting my own manuscript.

There are no hard and fast rules about handling your manuscript. Each writer finds his or her groove or comfortable working style, and each has the right to do it their own way.

However, the Internet has provided us the ability to communicate worldwide about many topics, my favorite of which is writing. Through our community of writers and our sharing we can make each other better writers.

I leave you with a quote from writer Michael Crichton which sums up the rewriting process:

Books aren’t written—they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it. 

What rewriting tips do have you used that you’d be willing to share here? Part of the reason for the blogging community is to share information. So, please leave comments below.

20 thoughts on “Tips for Rewriting Your Manuscript, Part 2

  1. Your site is so full of helpful tips. Also seems to be a place for healing. Thank you for sharing your story and helping others do the same…

  2. I’ve heard many of these writing tips from other sources, but the way you express them with illustrations makes it all seem more comprehensible. Thank you.
    Right now I’m poised on the diving board between blog snippets and beginning the first draft of my memoir, but honestly and I have no idea where to start. You’ve heard the expression “Flutter in all ways and fly in none.” That’s me at the moment. I have a hunch you have been there too perhaps a few years ago.

    1. Marian, thank you for the compliment in your first sentence. And yes, I have been where you are in your fluttering and flying and trying to decide what to do next. It will come to you soon and in a way that will make you stop and ask, “What just happened?”

  3. “There are no hard and fast rules about handling your manuscript. Each writer finds his or her groove or comfortable working style, and each has the right to do it their own way.” Absolutely, this is so true. For me, I draft and edit in sections, and in a circular motion. I 1st draft a section (usually a chapter), then go back and do a first edit. Then I go back and do a 2nd edit on the previous, 1st edited chapter. I find this helps me commit to memory all the various plot points and other bits so that I can carry them throughout my manuscript. It also helps me with motivation, switches up my tasks for each writing session. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s the rhythm I’ve found for myself.
    Great tips, btw, thanks : )

    1. Veronica, thanks for stopping by and for sharing your process with my readers and me. It’s always good to know how others approach this work of rewriting as we might find some gem we need to cling to for future use. Glad you were willing to share.

  4. Great tips, Sherrey. All first drafts stink (as much as we had to admit it), but its the editing and rewriting that makes a great book.

  5. Thanks for another round of excellent rewriting tips, Sherrey. I agree with all your points, especially about beta readers and putting your manuscript aside to “marinate” then revisiting it with fresh eyes. That’s why it’s a process and a journey. We each have to find our own way through to the finished product. I like Sue’s point about reviewing your manuscript with specific intentions. It helped to print mine out and see it on paper. It also helped me to read it out loud. Sometimes I taped my reading and when I listened to it, I got a better sense of the tone and pacing.

    1. Kathy, thanks for stopping in as I know you are super busy these days! I appreciate your sharing some of the things you’ve used in your manuscript revision journey. As I told Sue, I may post an addendum sharing the tips left in comments once I have received permission from commenters to do so.

  6. More great tips, Sherrey! Having others read your writing (after that sacredly private first draft) is an important suggestion. It’s usually desirable to allow people who appear in the memoir to read what you’ve written before the big, wide world sees it, but to also balance their input with feedback from people who are more objective.
    Something I’d add to your list is to have a specific thing you’re looking for each time you read through. For example, you could read through once looking to spiff up your dialogue and another time looking for places to add sensory details to your descriptions. I find that having a specific mission really helps me focus.
    Also, reading your writing aloud is a great way to notice long-winded, tangled or boring sections as well as repetition. When I read my work aloud, I almost always discover that I’ve been overusing a certain word or written an unwieldy sentence or two and completely glossed over it while reading the text silently.

    1. Sue, thanks so much, not only for the positive feedback but also the additional tips. I suppose I should consider an addendum to these two posts to add tips from others. What a great idea!!! The tip to read aloud is one I intended to include this time and somehow overlooked. Thanks for the reminder.

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