Tenth element in this series: Kill Your Darlings: The Art of Revision
(Please read the Introduction, if you haven’t already.)
Time and Distance
Do you give yourself time away from your work—do you give yourself distance—before rereading, revising, and rewriting?
In terms of self-editing, the best thing you can do is take a break.
I don’t mean a day or two. I mean weeks—or even better, months—so when you go back to it, you have fresh eyes.
With my memoir—Dare I Call It Murder?—after working on it almost every day for two years, I got so frustrated that I quit. I set it aside, saying: “Screw it. This sucks, and I don’t know how to fix it.”
Two months later, after friends and family encouraged me not to give up, I dusted it off and reread it—with fresh eyes. I felt as if I were reading someone else’s book. I could be much more objective and critical—the way I am when I put on my green eyeshade and dive into a manuscript that just showed up in my inbox.
Time and distance—it is a critical component in the art of revision.
Then, after you take that break, you pick up a #2 pencil (with a new eraser), read your manuscript with fresh eyes (I recommend hard copy, not on the screen), and keep in mind these Key Elements of the Art of Revision—then be ready to kill your darlings.
Don’t rush it! Better to do it well than have regrets.
Like or not, Microsoft Word is the default word processor in the writing/publishing world. Most professional editors use Word. Therefore, learn how to use its features, especially Styles and Track Changes. If you prefer some other software, such as Pages, Google docs, or OpenOffice, more often than not you will have compatibility issues when working with an editor who uses Word, unless you are or you become technologically savvy.
In Closing . . .
- Clarity, not confusion.
- What’s the story reason?
- Kill your darlings.
- An editor has the same goal as you—to make your book even better than it is.
Recommended Reading for Writers:
- Resources for Writers (webpage)
- Presentation to SDW/EG: Kill Your Darlings: The Art of Revision (pdf)
- From the Editor’s Eye: The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers (blog)
- On Writing: The Primrose Path to Prologue (blog)
- 21 Rules for Improving Your Writing (pdf)
- Self-Editing for Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King
- How to Write Killer Fiction, Carolyn Wheat
- The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Ann Lamott
- 78 Reasons why your book may never be published & 14 Reasons why it just might be, Pat Walsh
- Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing