When did I finish this young adult fantasy novel again? Oh, right, before NaNoWriMo last year.
It was ready for a little polish and then off to the beta readers.
Or so I thought. Until I got a critique on the first 20,000 words from the amazing Jami Gold.
It had major character arc issues.
So, I spent December tweaking things, getting a little feedback on the opening from my online critique group.
In January, I went through it all again, trying to spiff it up slightly. I don’t like sending mediocre writing out to readers.
Off it went to four beta readers in February.
And only one of them loved it.
The non-genre readers had issues with some of the fantastical happenings (it is a FANTASY after all), but thought the characters read fairly well. He wasn’t impressed with the ending.
The fantasy genre read-aholic thought the premise was great. He didn’t think the characters arced very much. Everything happened for them too easily – even though the stakes couldn’t get much higher.
Months later, the soon-to-be-published YA Fantasy writer returned the manuscript. Shredded. (No need to mention my writing confidence was also ripped apart. But that’s part of becoming a professional writer.)
Much of the stuff she address was tight writing, which I address most in my editing and polishing phases (which happen once all the revision and rewriting is finished).
The story had so much potential but was weighed down by wishy-washy characters and too few moments of accelerating tension.
So, I spent the next two weeks slicing and dicing the beta manuscript.
Here are a few examples:
- The first scene was completely scratched and rewritten (for like the fourth or fifth time)
- The order of the first two scenes was switched (suggestion from my target audience beta group)
- Several scenes were tossed into the “cut scenes” file (making it a hefty 15,000 words)
- A few new scenes were added
- Nearly every scene was intensified with more emotions (teenagers = drama)
- The end was completely rewritten (for the second time)
In short, anyone who read the original story probably wouldn’t recognize it in the pages of the rewritten story.
Next stop, revision with a red pen.
I print out my manuscript and read it aloud. Every sentence comes under fire.
I’ll address grammar issues if I find them. Obvious word repetition will fall beneath my sharpened editor’s blade.
But mostly, I’m cleaning up the language. Clarifying meaning. Focusing on the individual voice of each passage.
Does that SOUND like something my seventeen-year-old heroine would say? Would a fifteen-year-old surfing science geek think or talk that way?
After that, the manuscript will get two more rounds of edits. It’s during these final polishing rounds that I will search for obvious areas of “telling” rather than “showing.” Major word repetition will be rooted out.
After that, will it finally be done?
Nope, but it will be ready for marketing to agents, editors and publishers. Once they buy it, it will go through several more rounds of editing.
Because every writer knows – a story is never done.