Award-winning author DiAnn Mills is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn’s first book was published in 1998. She currently has more than fifty books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also the Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Website: www.diannmills.com
Ever read something you wrote one year ago, six months ago, or yesterday and cringe? Everything from word choice, descriptions, characters, plotting, and setting screamed back at you. I bet you even checked to make sure you actually wrote the piece. That was because we are always changing, growing, and learning the craft. Our job as writers is not limited to merely creating a manuscript, but we have a responsibility to edit and revise. We have a responsibility to the publisher to offer our very best, which means we cut the flab and reduce our writing, using clarity and preciseness as our weights.
The edits and revisions of our manuscript are the diet and exercise of molding our work into a sculptured piece, one that we are proud to submit. Sol Stein wrote: “Unwillingness to revise usually signals an amateur.”
Revision is an exciting challenge—an adventure to make our writing more powerful. Look forward to it, because revision and editing provide an opportunity to make your creation better and eventually the best.
Penelope Stokes refers to revision as a humbling experience. How much better for the writer to catch the poor grammar, manuscript construction, plot failures, and inconsistencies than an editor who tosses our work back at us.
I highly recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. This book teaches clarity and conciseness in an easy and understandable manner.
Rule number one is don’t revise while you write. Finish a scene, a chapter, or even the entire story before switching to editor mode. Creating a story uses the left side of your brain. Revision uses the right side. While writing the first draft, no matter how clean, the writer is learning about the story and its characters.
Regarding the number of times you edit or rewrite: only the writer can make that determination. A critique group or partner will help the writer see blind spots.
My routine is simple. Perhaps it will help you.
1. Write strong copy from the beginning.
The following items will help you find problem areas during the self-editing process.
Strive to make sentences active. Many times “to be” verbs make a sentence passive. Remember “as” and “ing” words tend to make a sentence passive.
Create your own metaphors and similes.
Start with a strong hook.
Toss out the best sentence that hooks your reader into your story.
Hero, heroine, or protagonist
is it about them that you like or dislike?
Villain or antagonist
Is the character truly evil or badly behaved?
What is the one trait that gives the character redeeming quality?
Sol Stein states that no villain can attract victims unless he has charm, charisma, position, or wealth.
Use a calendar to keep track of your chapters (http://calendarhome.com/tyc/#calendars).
Conflict and Tension
Make sure names and unique words are spelled the same throughout the manuscript. Consult The Chicago Manual of Style or your publisher’s house style guide to know which numbers should be spelled out and which require using numerals.
Cut Extra Words
Be clear and concise.
Make it clear and tight.
Do you have emotional conflict in every paragraph? Every line?
Have you asked the four crucial questions regarding each scene?
Have you written with a clear
genre in mind?
Invest in a grammar guide or
Is it tight?
Make sure the reader knows what noun the pronoun stands for.
Avoid repeated phrases.
Rate every scene in your book.
Does each scene use all the senses?
Count the symbols with single
syllable words first: beans, cabbage, and tomatoes instead of
huckleberries, pear, and a banana.
Sometimes the way we are
accustomed to hearing items in a list contradicts the above guidelines.
If the items in your list do not sound appropriate when you adhere to
this rule, change them so they are acceptable.
Tea with lunch, dinner, and breakfast should be tea with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Cream and peaches should be peaches and cream.
The bees and the birds (alphabetical sequence) should be the birds and the bees.
Gold, myrrh, and frankincense should be gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Research more than you think
you will ever use.
Vary Sentence Length
Do your sentences have rhythm?
William Shakespeare wrote: “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.”
Make sure all of your modifiers modify what you intend.
Is your story filled with muscle? If not, head to the weight room with power booster determination. Your characters will thank you for it.