Conference season is nearly underway, and many of you, like me, may be working on novels to pitch at a conference.
I recently finished the first draft of my novel, which felt like a tremendous feat.
And then I began to come to the realization that editing can take more time than initial writing, at least, if you want to really craft your novel.
So if you have finished a manuscript, be proud of yourself! Many people quit halfway through. However, don't lull yourself into thinking you're done, or even close to done. Chances are, unless you're a prodigy writer (and maybe even then), revision will mean more than inserting a few commas.
While grammatical revision is certainly important and necessary, it's also important that you revise your plot. Look for holes, cliches in the writing, characters who can be combined, and even ways to add new subplots. Add a twist. Increase the stakes. Make us care about your characters even more. Now that you have the skeleton of the story, you have the freedom to add or take away from it.
Don't become so married to your original draft that you hesitate to change it. Have a few friends read through your manuscript and ask them to tell you honestly what works and what doesn't.
Above all, read.
Become an expert reader. Reading other books of a similar genre will help make you an expert in it, and reading books about the writing process can help you learn how to self-edit your manuscript, which is a valuable skill even if you plan on working with a professional editor.
I have been reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Plot and Structure. These two books have dynamically changed the way I look at my manuscript. I would definitely recommend them.
So, take a few days off. Buy yourself come chocolate ice cream, and sleep in.
But after those two or three days, adjust your perspective, and get ready to rip your manuscript apart. :)