You’ve finished your manuscript and you’re ready to shove it in your drawer with a big red stamp that says “DONE”, never to look at it again. You’ve written and rewritten and edited and revised and every other kind of polished it, and you’re so over writing this thing. Right? Well… Here are two really important lessons I learned while revising my first manuscript after a six month hiatus.
1. After letting it sit, you will see issues with it much easier.
It’s so heartbreaking. You remember this glorious work that you slaved over and perfected, but when you go back and re-read it, it’s not quite up to par. You think “Holy crap, I wrote this?” Yes. Yes you did. Even if you didn’t grow at all as a writer (which I highly doubt, but I’ll address that in my second point), the vision of your book has faded because you’ve likely had other stories bouncing around in your head, whether from reading or writing them. So you notice things like no dialogue tags, lack of scene descriptions, POV switches, plot issues (ahhhh!!), or, like I did, the startlingly bare-boned… everything. I realized that I had written too tight, leaving out character motions between dialogue and some much-needed emotional connections to the characters. I had no idea who was talking sometimes. All of those were glaringly apparent, and my red pen and I took care of them… after a six month wait.
2. You will grow as a writer.
If you’re a serious writer, you are always improving your craft. Between reading books on the craft, books in your genre, books outside of your genre, editing friends’ books, and just plain writing, you’re exposing yourself to writing constantly. Reading books on the craft is obvious how it helps you. Reading in your genre shows you how the masters do it. Reading outside your genre shows you how to write the things your genre is typically weaker in. (Example: realistic fiction–i.e. anything not fantasy–can learn strong world-building from the fantasy genre.) Editing other people’s manuscripts shows you pitfalls in their writing and how to improve it, therefore improving your own as you’re more aware of those issues. And by simply writing, you’re getting better at putting the words down and putting them together.
When you go back and look at your old works, when your instinct is to cringe, be happy!! That means you’ve grown and your craft is improving! And, though it will be a lot of work, revising your old manuscript will only make it stronger.