You’ve been wearing your writer hat. The creative juices have been flowing. Now it’s time to turn off the spigot and change to the editor hat. With this flip of a hat, you have become your own worst enemy. No more admiring of your beautiful prose, clever plot and interesting characters. Now you’re going to study every aspect of your book with a critical eye and judge what stays, what changes, and what goes. Do your job well, and you will have transformed your flawed piece of writing into the work of art you set out to create.
It is a good idea to put some distance between you and your work before undertaking revisions. Put it aside and start something else. Take a vacation. Read a few books. The goal is to allow your mind to disengage from the nitty gritty of the story so you can come back to it with a fresh eye. This requires as much emotional detachment as you can muster. Not an easy task given the blood, sweat and tears you have put into your work up until now. But necessary.
Many new writers look to their family and/or friends to be their first editor. This is not a good idea for several reasons. A first draft is bound to be squishy, even hopeless in its present form. If your reader is honest about the book’s shortcomings, it can be a devastating blow that drives you away from your work for weeks, months, or forever. On the other hand, if you get a glowing but dishonest evaluation, you will have gained no insight into what you need to do. You are the writer, and only you can know the intricate workings of your plot and characters. Therefore, it is best for you to wield the knife yourself.
Once you have steeled yourself to accept the notion that nothing in your manuscript is sacrosanct and everything is on the chopping block, you will be ready to begin the revision process. Click on the links below to read my specific tips for self-editing.