Write It Sideways

Extreme Manuscript Makeover: Bare It All

So, you say you’re going on a blind date?

How exciting!

Oh, the romance.  The moonlight, the flowers, the soft music.  The accidental touch of two hands inadvertently meeting in the breadbasket…

Just one thing:  Not to be rude, but have you really taken a look at yourself lately?

That’s right.  When was the last time you stood bare-naked in front of a mirror and checked yourself out?  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Maybe you’ve aged a little.  Your butt is beginning to sag.  There are ornery black hairs growing where they shouldn’t be.  Those toenails could use a trim.  And, well, you kind of have B.O.

Let’s be honest.  It’s a good thing this is a blind date.  Would you go on a date with yourself at the moment?

There are many similarities between making over yourself for a blind date, and making over your manuscript for submission to agents and publishers. They both take careful planning, hard work, and an iron stomach.  And they both culminate in either acceptance or rejection (hopefully acceptance).

Welcome to…

Extreme Manuscript Makeover: Bare It All

Check out Extreme Manuscript Makeover’s Introduction to find out what’s in store for this fantastic series on manuscript revision.

For those who are ready to strip down and take a good long look at your work (warts and all), let’s start with some strategies for planning your manuscript’s extreme makeover.

Give It A Once-Over

We’ll begin by reading your first draft from beginning to end.

This step is vitally important.  It will give you an impression of how the entire manuscript fits together, as well as bring to light all kinds of problems with your work.

But remember, you’re just starting this journey.  As tempting as it can be, resist the urge to tweeze any stray hairs from your manuscript at this point.  It isn’t time for revision.

Don’t just give it a quick scan either: reading your draft should take even longer than it would to read any other book.  As the author, you’re on a highly intimate level with your manuscript.  Reading too quickly will cause you to mentally skip over things others will easily notice.

Likewise, reading through your book as soon as you’ve finished writing it won’t be terribly beneficial.  Put it away for at least two months.  By the end of this period, you’ll see everything with fresh eyes.

But wait!  Don’t begin reading just yet.  Before you start, consider the following strategies you’ll want to use as you go.

Take Notes

While you’re reading, mark your manuscript where necessary.

You can create a legend using symbols such as arrows, asterisks and underlining to mark any problems. Or, simply write yourself a note where something needs to be changed.  (Hint: Try to forget grammar or spelling at the moment.  You’ll come to that later.)

At the same time, keep a notebook with the following headings to record observations, inconsistencies and weaknesses:

Create A Timeline

If you didn’t create a timeline of your book during the planning stages, or if you significantly strayed from your initial plans, you’ll want to make one as you read your first draft.

Your timeline can be as simple as a line with a few words scribbled at appropriate points to indicate significant events.  You might get creative and use sketches or symbols instead.  Perhaps you feel more comfortable preparing something very formal.  Whatever works for you, use it.

By making a timeline as you read, you’ll be be able to see the overall story arc and get a feel for pacing.  It may also illuminate areas for revision, such as disappearing characters or large gaps in action.

When you’ve finished reading your manuscript, taking notes and creating a timeline, you’re ready for the final step of Extreme Manuscript Makeover, Part I.

Brainstorm Ideas For Improvement

This is where you take all the information you’ve gathered about your book and get down to some serious planning.  The big question you’re asking yourself is, “How am I going to make this book better?”

Consider the following ways to take your manuscript from rough to refined:

No doubt, you will think of a long list of ways to improve your manuscript from its current status as first draft.

Your Turn

We can all stand to learn from each other’s experiences.  Let us know how you’re going with this phase of your manuscript makeover.

Ready for your next assignment?  Join me for Extreme Manuscript Makeover: Tone It Up, where you’ll put away the ugly mirror and start getting yourself ready for your dream date.

I’ll teach you how to take all the ideas you accumulated today, and implement them into your manuscript.

(Oh, and you can get dressed now…)