You might think finishing that first draft is the hard part, but if you've ever done revision, you'll know this is where the work begins. It takes brutal honesty, sacrifice, and a heavy hand. Get out your hammer---we're about to knock down those walls!
POSITION YOUR HAMMER.
After you've completed your first draft, it's essential to put it away for a while. Don't be one of those people who believes you can start editing the minute you finish writing. It doesn't work. You're too connected, too happy with what you've written, too blind to see what's really on the page. You need space and time to unplug from the work. Trust me, you've built gigantic brick walls around things you think are wonderful.
And they're not.
Find the weak spots.
Once you've put that manuscript in the drawer for a while, it's time to write something else. Write a poem. Make a shopping list. Start a new book or a short story. Whatever you do, make sure it's something different than what you just wrote. This will help you get away from the "perfection" of your newly completed manuscript.
Then, when you've stopped dreaming about your book every day, when you've almost forgotten the names of some of the minor characters---it's time to pull that baby back out and look at it. Open it up and save a copy. (You don't want to edit the one and only original.) Read it through once. And try to read it as though you're reading someone else's work. You're brutal then, right? Right. Make notes about the spots that feel weak, jot ideas in the margins. But most of all, really notice the parts you LOVE.
Those are the parts that are going to be the hardest to edit. Not the ones with obvious grammatical errors or weird portions of dialog. No, the ones you need to take extra care with are the beauties. The beauties have the brick walls erected so high around them, you have to climb for days to get over them. You don't want to touch those. They're so perfect, so amazingly written, no one could find anything wrong with them. Think again.
I'm sure you've heard the saying "Kill your darlings". Those are the portions of your book that you love and can't do without. But if a scene (or a chapter) doesn't DO anything to move the plot forward, you MUST get rid of it. Start hammering. Look at the wall. Is it there? Is it high? Is there anything good behind it? Be brutaly honest. If it doesn't do anything for your plot, it needs to go. (Kind of like editing your closet. Yes, those cute wide bottom pants really looked good two summers ago, but you wouldn't be caught dead in them now, right? Right. Throw out the pants. Kill your darlings. Knock down the wall.)
Wait...you've opened up that word doc and saved yourself a copy. So, really, that beautiful section will always be there. It'll always be something you've written, even if no one else gets to see it. And you can read it again, if you really, really must. But get rid of it in your revised draft. Take it out. Knock it down and make it quick. No sense lingering. You'll feel better for doing it, and your work will be stronger.
Kill your darlings. Knock down those brick walls. Edit your closet. Whatever you like to think as you edit, make sure you do it without the hope of bringing it back. I promise, in a week, you won't even remember it.
As usual, we have some lovely prizes up for grabs this month, including an ebook version of Ella Martin's WILL THE REAL PRINCE CHARMING PLEASE STAND UP? Don't forget to enter to win!