By Carly Silver, Assistant Editor, Harlequin Romantic Suspense
What’s the point of going over your novel again? After all, you worked so hard on it that it’s got to be perfect, right? Wrong! In fact, revising a manuscript absolutely essential to its success. Editors often ask their authors to retool their books many times. I asked some of the Harlequin head honchos on why revising a manuscript benefits you, the author.
- The first reason is simple—your final product is better, more polished, than your initial draft. By reviewing your work multiple times, you can flesh out your manuscript with details as needed, cut down on unnecessary scenes, embellish a character, or remove any typos or errors you missed before.
- Getting an outsider’s opinion can be just as important as your own take on your manuscript. Join a local critique group, or let a trusted friend or family member read your manuscript. Listen to their comments – he or she is your first reader. If he or she thinks a certain character’s motivations don’t make sense, or that a particular passage isn’t necessary because it doesn’t relate to the core narrative, listen to that person. Because you’re so close to your manuscript, you might not notice these important issues that might trip up a reader.
- Revising allows your manuscript to outshine others. Because editors are very busy—and they read a ton of submissions—and so many authors are trying to get published, the competition is fierce. If an editor reads the first few pages of a manuscript and doesn’t like it, chances are you’ll receive a rejection letter. By going back over your work multiple times, you can make your manuscript pop from the first paragraph, thereby catching an editor’s eye and lifting you out of the slush pile.
- Your first draft is never your best one. I don’t think any author ever wrote a perfect manuscript in one fell swoop. Even top authors need to sit down and think out their work. If you’re writing a romance, perhaps you need to get more sensual in some scenes, or take some of the heat out of the non-bedroom scenes. By reviewing and re-reading your manuscript, you will find innumerably ways to improve upon it.
- Overall improvement. By revising your manuscript, you can better every aspect of your work that might need help. Editors work with their authors on multiple rounds of manuscripts to get the finished product. In that process, they’ll focus on topics like pacing, characterization, mood, style, etc. Paying attention to each element that makes good writing is essential.