My husband is a marvelous writer. His readers know that. But every now and then his brilliance with story, its structure and its soul, moves me to tears.
And so on a road trip to Philly over the holidays I found myself doing the ugly cry when in a matter of minutes he fixed a gaping hole in my manuscript. All while navigating I-95.
“Just another reason why I love you,” I said, pulling out my Blackberry to capture his flowing thoughts.
As I listened I knew instinctively he was on point. He had effortlessly moved me closer to the finish line. Sometimes writers just have to ask for help.
Revising my manuscript is a top goal in 2011. Like other aspiring novelists, I long for the day when readers in far-flung places enjoy my book. This is the year to polish it. Whether I self-publish or not will be decided before spring. First, I must finish writing the best book I can.
It starts by writing forward.
I know many writers who revise the same chapter so many times they run out of steam midway. Big mistake, says Author Stacy Hawkins Adams, who coaches aspiring writers. She instructs writers to get the entire story down before getting caught up in additional researching, revising and editing. Her words freed me and can liberate other writers, too.
Give yourself a deadline.
You may delay but time will not. This pithy quote is not my own but it drills down to a profound truth: time is a gift. One you can not return. Get a wall calendar, or use your cell phone’s. Set a date to have a specific number of pages done and stick to it. If you can not be accountable to yourself, get an accountability partner.
Create a community of feedback readers.
Seek constructive criticism from truth tellers and not people in your amen corner. You know, loved ones who either don’t know weak writing or won’t tell you they fell asleep on page 3. Ask different and diverse circles to provide comment. Better yet, join a writing group so you can reciprocate the favor.
Kill the babies.
This is a term often used by newspaper editors to cub reporters who think highly of their pointless writing. Excessive dialogue? Flowery prose? Chunky paragraphs lean on substance? Hit delete. The crying – yours, will stop. Eventually.
Revise and Polish.
Love your work? I bet you do. Your story radiates creativity and style. It embodies your passion and months, maybe years of toil. Guess what? There’s room to improve it. Trust me, there are telling details to add, emotional truths to reveal, character growth to explore. Write it until the only changes you want to make involves removing commas.
Step away from the world of words you created. Go live life. Give your laptop body, the one with the hunched shoulders, flabby thighs and turtle neck, an excursion outdoors. Whatever you do, leave your manuscript alone for a few weeks. The distance will enable you to spot flaws. Promise.
That’s all that is left to do. Add commas, delete commas. It’s as good as it will get at this point unless you seek professional editing, which should be a required step for all aspiring authors. Mail it to, well, all the folks on your list. Now, dust your shoulders, you’re done.
Do the ugly cry.
Just not on Oprah.