Have you ever found yourself telling somebody that’s what I meant or that’s NOT what I meant? Well, that happens all the time in writing. The entire story is in the writer’s head, but what comes out isn’t always clear, just like in conversations. That’s why it’s so important to get fresh eyes on your drafts. No matter how great or successful a writer you are, your work has to be looked over by other people who can catch all the things you meant to say but didn’t (outside of your own mind, anyway).
I started my first novel, The Anuan Legacy (coming fall of 2017), from a place of zero knowledge or experience on how to write a book. Therefore, it may have spun around longer than a seasoned writer’s work would have, but nobody should ever scratch together a draft and immediately send it out the door without putting it in the hands of qualified reviewers and editors first.
My critique group (The Plot Sisters), does a great job of being my first round of fresh eyes, and sometimes my second and third rounds, as well. But after a while, they don’t have fresh eyes anymore, either. They know all the things that have been cut and may no longer recognize when something is missing that should have been included.
For The Anuan Legacy, after I wore out my Plot Sisters, I hired a trusted and reputable professional to give a critique as both a reader and someone who knows the current dos and don’ts of novel writing. (These change over time.) This resulted in more revisions. I then passed the manuscript on to beta readers. Beta readers are volunteers who have never seen the story before and are willing to read it and give feedback. Of course, this drove another round of revisions. Once those were complete, I ran the updated draft through a second professional critique. More revisions. Then my Plot Sisters graciously agreed to review the manuscript yet another time. The material had morphed enough since they’d last seen it that their eyes were fresh again. Of course, I received more revision suggestions. Next, more beta readers and, you guessed it—more revisions. My manuscript went through so many revisions it barely resembled the original draft anymore and the time had come to bring in the heavy hitters. I sent it off to an editor who gave it a good content edit. And, yep, I had more revisions to make.
I might mention that after every set of comments, whether it be from my Plot Sisters, a professional editor, or anybody in between, I wanted to kick myself for not catching those things on my own. It always seemed so obvious after someone else pointed it out, but “tired eyes” just miss things.
This process can go round and round and round. So, where do things stand now with my debut novel? I just received the manuscript back from line editing. If you guessed that will result in more revisions, you’re right. But hopefully soon, it will be ready for proofreading and publishing—with a million other steps in between like blurbs, cover art, formatting, reviews, launch activities, and so on.
Suffice it to say that when this book finally reaches all of you, it will not just be made of paper and ink, but of my blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul. I hope you enjoy it. 😊