It can be difficult to keep rewriting and revising when all you want to do is share your new novel or screenplay with the world. Resist the temptation to send out your work before it’s really ready. Your impatience will cost you dearly, in the form of wasted opportunities and lost time. It may take months or even years for you to get actual feedback from an editor, and by the time you realize how much work needs to be done on your manuscript, you may have sent it out to dozens of other editors or agents. You shouldn’t re-send your work to the same people unless you have been invited to do so, so those opportunities have been lost forever.
Rewriting can actually be a fun process. You will be amazed at how much better the final product is when compared to your first draft. You will discover new ideas, character traits, and lines of dialogue that help your creativity and unique voice stand out among your competition. Keep these tips in mind as you work to make your writing shine:
Put it away for several weeks. This is not an easy thing to do, but gaining a fresher perspective is vital and will reduce your time until publication in the long run.
Find a good book doctor or script analyst. Ask around to find those who are trustworthy and reasonably priced.
Take a workshop writing course or join a writers group. You will learn how to give and get criticism and how to become your own best editor!
Have someone experienced in editing or a professional go over your text to get rid of repetitions and nonsense, but don’t let him replace your vision with his own. A good rewrite will keep the dialect and characterization true to the original.
Read the work aloud. Fine-tune any dialogue that does not sound natural or seems out of character.
Don’t be afraid to cut the good stuff. Even if a line of dialogue or an entire subplot is brilliant, excise it if it simply doesn’t fit with the rest of the work. You may be able to use it in a future work.
Look for any passage that may be overlong and contain too much description.
Remember that it is easy to overlook left out words because the mind reads them into the text. This is easy to do even if the work is written by someone else.
Don’t keep editing the life out of your work. Do look it over for mistakes, but if you wait too long to finish, you will lose the original inspiration and write an entirely different version.
Many thanks to authors Jodi Picoult, Carolyn Haines, and Griffith Brownlee who generously contributed to this article.