Rejection hurts. Body aches and head spins around and around trying to figure out if we did anything wrong as writers. Is what we wrote not good enough? Did we not think everything out? Was the idea already out there and we just didn’t know it? Or was it because we sent the piece out prematurely? Often times, it’s the latter. Agents see an increase in submissions after Nanowrimo or National Writing Month that takes place throughout the whole month of November. More often than not those pieces shouldn’t have been sent to the agents that fast. Why you might ask? Because we need to revise and revise again. The first day of class in my MFA program we were all told two things: one, writing isn’t instantaneous and two, if you’re not into rewriting, get out now. Writing is all about rewriting. No one, not even Edgar Allen Poe, wrote a great first draft, but they might have written a killer second, third, or fourth draft. This is something we need to keep in mind. In one of my classes I was given a revision checklist, which has helped me over the years and it’s something I think can help us all.
So here’s what I was told and it makes total sense. The first draft is for you and the finished draft is for them. The first draft, or the creation of the novel, was our gift to ourselves. Now, through revision, it’s our contribution to others. There are seven steps for a successful revision.
1. Read it out loud. –If something sounds bad, cut it out or change it. I used to be afraid to cut whole paragraphs out and now I can cut whole pages out no problem because I know whatever I come up with to replace it sounds a hundred times better.
2. Always back up your work. –You can completely decapitate your work, but always come back to the original living body of your work.
3. Revise at least two times.—Strip your work down to its bare bones and then build it back up piece by piece.
4. Go through amazing open doors. –Sometimes in the revision process our characters might reveal something to us we didn’t know was possible in the first draft. Go through that new open door in your revision stage and see what the outcome is.
5. Chop the last sentence and last paragraph out—The truth is sometimes by the end we run out of steam and sometimes the novel or short story might be stronger cutting the last paragraph out. Try it and see what happens.
6. Cut EVERY other sentence of dialogue. ---Dialogue slows down the narrative and the truth is most of us aren’t that long winded and even if we are, people tend to tune us out half way so cut, cut, and cut some more through the dialogue and you’ll be surprised at how much stronger that piece of work will be.
7. Make the last sentence the first or the first sentence the last. It’s weird how this works, but just trust me when I say it does.
Now knowing all of this, I want you to revise and revise some more. Don’t send your work out prematurely and remember that persistence is the key to everything!