For any writer, it’s important to understand how to revise thoroughly. However productive you are and however many words, pages, or chapters you’re churning out each time you sit down to write, you aren’t going to get anywhere if you can’t step back and understand what’s working and what isn’t, whether you need to revisit some favorite writers to understand how to write interesting dialogue or explore a complex point of view. If you want to be a writer and produce stories and novels that work, you need to commit to the long process of revising over and over.
It may seem challenging at first, but revising your fiction is all about exploring different strategies until you learn what kinds of critiques work best for you. To understand more about how to revise your fiction—and make it the best it can be—read on.
Wait Until You’re Finished Writing
While it can be tempting to start revising the minute you start writing, obsessing over small details like how to express certain things or get the voice of your narrator right from the first sentence, this is only going to get in the way of your productivity. In addition to slowing you down, the tendency to revise while writing will also make it impossible for you to understand what your story is truly about. Often, it isn’t until we arrive at the ending of a story that we understand the theme, or what a main character’s subconscious struggle is, or if the first five pages aren’t necessary at all.
By waiting until you’ve finished a project, you can step away from it and understand it better, which means you can then think about what needs to be fixed. Additionally, this guarantees that you’ll finish the story before you start the important revision process.
Considering that Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sales rose 200 percent between November 8, 2016 and the beginning of 2017, it goes to show that being patient can go a long way for writers.
Read the Story Out Loud
If you’ve just finished a story, but you aren’t sure what needs to be changed, it can help to read the story out loud to yourself or a friend. Suddenly, your ear will pick up on what sounds awkward, and whether the reason is that you need to change from the first to third person or cut down your sentences. Additionally, if you’re in a writing workshop, this is the best way to pick up on embarrassing mistakes like typos before turning your story in for submission. Hold a pen while you’re doing it so that you can quickly edit the mistakes before you forget.
You can bet that Stephen King, whose net worth is $400 million, did this when he was younger before he had an editor revising the many pages he writes every year.
Exchange Your Writing With Others
Exchanging your writing with others has many benefits, the two main ones being that (1) you’re holding yourself accountable by having a submission deadline and (2) you can have an outsider read your story, which means they don’t have the same biases and blind spots that you do. Whether you have just one partner you’re exchanging with, a workshop class you’re taking, or a mentor who’s reading your work, this is one of the best ways to improve as a writer.
Once you’ve gotten feedback from a variety of people, you can reflect on what that means for your future revision plans. Additionally, if you have any questions for them, you can write those up before your work is critiqued, and discuss them once everyone has had a chance to read your story. It’s also a smart idea to ask your readers for recommendations of fiction that you should read. For example, if you have a story that has a lot of time travel, you can ask for time travel books they think would be relevant to helping you revise later on.
Additionally, reading other people’s stories, and critiquing those, will help you understand the elements of fiction—and these lessons will eventually have a positive impact on how you write. In the same way that a company like 180Fusion helps companies with their SEO efforts, you’ll be helping your future self with what you learn. And if you have an editing career, too, you can benefit – especially considering that the median pay of editors is over $50,000 a year.
These are some of the best strategies for revising your fiction. What other strategies work for you?Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.