The only just literary critic is Christ, who admires more than does any man, the gifts He Himself has bestowed. – JRR Tolkien

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Rewriting and Revising Before You Edit

How Many Manuscript Drafts Should You Go Through?

How many times should you revise and rewrite your book? What should I do about editing my manuscript?

When working on a book of any kind, if you haven’t gone through a minimum of three drafts, you probably don’t have a finished product.

The first draft should be seen only as an opportunity to articulate and develop ideas in a rough form.

This tells you what it is you want to say. But, in fiction especially, how you say it is often just as important as what you say.

When writing your first draft, throw as many thoughts onto the page as possible – sort of a stream-of-consciousness, no matter how poorly written you think it might be now.

Don’t stop to perfect or polish it.

That will come later.

Think of a sculptor working on a statue. If his lump of stone doesn’t have arms yet, he’s not going to stop and refine the fingers on the hand.

The idea here is to spin out and stimulate as many ideas as possible.

Think of a child with a piece of play-dough, smashing it this way and that, playing with shapes.

Or a kid with watercolors, splattering paint on a paper to see if any patterns emerge.

Get everything out of you and onto the page, keeping always in mind that much of it might end up on the cutting room floor. Again, this is the what.

Once you’ve got the what, not comes the fun part.

Rewriting and revising.

You no longer have to worry about staring at a blank page. Here, whether you take three or four, or even fifteen to twenty drafts, is where you carefully craft the how.

What’s the best, most powerful way to form these sentences I’ve already written?

Again, this is your job. Do not send it to the editor until you’re sure you’ve done your utmost best.

If you are self-publishing, you’re going to need to work even harder to avoid errors which might alert the reader that your book is self-published. The last thing you want the reader to think is that you published your own work.

You want every reader to think your book has been professionally published by a major publisher. Otherwise, you risk the reader not taking your work seriously. When your book looks amateurish, most people won’t even bother to read it, much less review it or recommend it to someone. One careless mistake early on could prompt the reader to simply toss your book aside.

While it’s unfortunate, even today, self-published books still carry a stigma with many discerning readers.

I happen to be one of them.

There’s nothing more annoying than spending good money on a book, only to find sub-standard writing or editing, or writing that looks as though the proofreading was skipped altogether.

Therefore, pass your manuscript around to at least three or four meticulous, well-read individuals. People you trust to be honest and unsparing in their reviews.

Is there a certain number of times I should edit my book before it's ready to send to an agent, editor, or publisher?

Once they’ve read your manuscript, pick their brains. It is important to remember we all have blind spots, both personally, and in our work.

People see things in us we’d never see in ourselves. It’s a fact of life. So make sure, if you think you’re manuscript is worthy of being deemed finished, to allow for a second or third opinion.

What’s needed here is a nice pair of balls.

Eyeballs, that is.

Objective eyeballs.

Eyeballs that can spot even the tiniest of flaws.

That way, when the editor gets your manuscript in his or her hands, the only thing they will have to do is the job they are paid to do. Editing.

Happy writing!!!!

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