Mary and Rick Roberts

Reviewing Your First Draft: WD’s Manuscript Separation Process

It’s easy to get excited after you’ve written your first draft. We know you want to show it to the world. But don’t! Please don’t. Here’s an easy process to remember to make your manuscript the best it can be—before showing even one word to your closest friend, or gasp,  to an editor. We believe this process is time well spent. Read on to learn more about our Manuscript Separation process.
1) If you haven’t started writing your first book and your reading this blog, that’s okay. a) Do as much research as you need to start writing Manuscript 1. b) Begin writing 200-1000 words a day, 6 days a week until you reach the desired story length. (90,000 words is the length of a typical fiction book.)
2) Writing the first draft can be frustrating. Enjoy the process. No matter if it takes you 30 days or 30 months, this is the first draft of Manuscript 1. Ever. Make it whatever you want it to be. Take your time and add as much of the story as you can during this process.
Note: If you get stuck or have writer’s block, no worries.  Relax and unwind. Do some more research on your topic, or get inspired by attending a local writer’s group meeting. Writers are helpful, unselfish people and most want to see their peers succeed.
2) You’ve finished writing your first draft. Congratulations! Now, here’s the most important step in your manuscript process. Put it aside and don’t touch it for 3 months—that’s 90 days of not looking at one word, not even the title. I know, I know. It’s finished, and you want to tweak every last word. Why? Because you can. Revising it now at this stage of the process would be a crucial mistake and could be hazardous to the manuscript. Wait 3 months before reviewing this first draft. Waiting can be tough, but this is very important. Plan a vacation, start a new hobby, outline a new story. Do anything but read Manuscript 1.
Note: If you do think of an idea to add to the manuscript during your time away, write it down in a journal with the date on it (or the day in the process, like Day 25 of 90) so you don’t forget the inspirational idea that could fix that plot hole or character flaw.
3) Day 91: You’re ready to review your manuscript. You’ve been a good writer and haven’t peeked. That’s wonderful! Now, check that journal for any notes to refresh your memory and start reading.
Note: More revisions are typically made on Chapter One than any other chapter. Don’t have a favorite. Spend equal amounts of time on every chapter. I know some are more needy than others and require more attention. Just be aware that you’re not spending all of your time with just one chapter. Remember to add details for characters, like oh I don’t know, them wearing clothing and having skin color, eye color, hair color, etc., so your characters are not running around invisible and naked. LOL! 🙂
4) You’ve finished the second draft. Writer, what are you going to do next? No, (shaking head) not send it to an editor. Wrong answer. Go to Disney World? Maybe. The one thing you need to do: put Draft 2 aside for 2 short months. 60 days, that’s all. You can do it!
Note: During your off time of Manuscript 1, you could begin research on Manuscript 2.
5) Day 61: Review draft day. As you go through the manuscript this time, you’ll see plot holes or character flaws more easily. During this review, you’ll probably spend more time on specific scenes in the story, making sure the story arc is what it needs to be and making the characters live and breathe. When you’ve fixed those plot holes, you’re ready for the next step.
Note: Getting distance away from Manuscript 1 is very important and allows for you to have “Fresh Eyes” on your manuscript. Some writers say they don’t even remember writing some of the things in their manuscript while reviewing.
6) Next step. Put Draft 3 away for 1 month before reviewing it. Easy peasy. The time will go quickly.
Note: During this month off from Manuscript 1, write 5 diary entries your main character would write. If, after you write these entries you discover more about your character’s flaws and characteristics, be sure to write them down in your journal and include them when you begin your next review.
7) Day 31: Review Day of Draft 4.  Take your time with this review, be critical and watch for minor typos and grammatical errors that may have popped up during the revision process. Add any details about your character that you may have missed before, but don’t spend a lot of time on changing scenes/character revisions. This review is meant to be more of a proof, than a rewrite. A rewrite at this point shouldn’t be needed. After this review you should have a clean manuscript.
Note: If you’re fully satisfied with your manuscript at this point, that’s great! If not, take another month away from it and do more revisions. If you’re really stuck, do one of two things: a) join a writer’s critique group and ask for suggestions, or b) set up a time to talk with one of us at Written Dreams and we can put you in contact with a professional to help you.
8) Submission time? Your manuscript has been fully revised, it’s typo free and full of fun details about your characters and the adventure they embark upon. You’re excited and ready to submit to an editor, but first, should you have someone else read it? That depends. If this is truly your first manuscript and you know other writers, you could ask a few willing beta readers. Many pros do this, and it’s not a bad idea at all.
Note: If you do send your manuscript to beta readers keep in mind that you may end up doing more revisions. Remember to take time away from Manuscript 1 after any revision process, a minimum of 30 days after revising any scenes.
8) Submission time: sending Manuscript 1 to an editor. Request their submission guidelines and format your manuscript in their suggested format. Then, off it goes!
Note: You will worry. We know. Remember that editors read manuscripts for a living and that Manuscript 1 isn’t the only one they have on their schedule. After you send your manuscript out, write down the date sent, and then start a new project. Check in with the editor after 6-9 weeks have passed to check on the status of your manuscript.
Good luck! We hope this article helped you. This a suggestion for a process that we’ve seen work for many authors. Ultimately, you need to decide what process works best for you. If you have any questions, you may contact us through our contact page on our website. Check out our store at writtendreams.com/store for some great reads by other authors!
Mary and Rick Roberts

Please Clarify…Please Clarify…Really, I Need More Clarification Here

E. Tip of the Day: Clarification

When an editor says, “Please clarify,” or “More details are needed here,” or “Clarify the reasoning here” what does it mean exactly?

Every editor is different, with varying opinions on what needs clarification in any specific story. As an editor, I tend to look at this way: if I’m confused about what is happening in a story, there’s something wrong, and that something needs to be fixed. Immediately.

Why? The fast answer: Because it’s not a good thing to alienate and confuse the readers. 🙂

As an author, what can you do to understand better what the editor is trying to tell you? Listen. Ask questions. Ask your editor to clarify to you what they need more details about, if it’s not clear in the comments they’ve made in your manuscript. Ultimately, what they’re telling you, is there’s not enough details being conveyed to the reader in order for the reader to understand what is happening in the story. If the reader is confused, that’s not good. So, when an editor mentions clarifying an area, whether it’s setting, eye color, or something happening in the plot, you should stand up and take notice. And then, find a solution that fits both your needs as the author, and the reader’s needs for understanding.

Here’s a cheat sheet–in my opinion–of areas that usually need clarification and how they can be addressed. And please, keep in mind, every novel is different, so some areas in a story may be more important to clarify than others.

1) If the comment is made on dialogue and is something the reader is explaining that happened, ask yourself: how much does this comment pertain to the overall plot? If my ending will be unaffected by anything I add to the story, how important is it that I add more details (in this specific place)? Or, is this something that can be cleared up later?

2) If the comment is made on setting, and the setting is as much a character as the rest of the cast of characters, it’s probably a good idea to make sure what is being conveyed makes sense. Ask yourself literally–maybe even by making a drawing of a chicken’s scratches map–if I took this route, would I get to my destination?

3) If the comment is made on your character’s personality, in my opinion, that’s a biggie. If your characters are inconsistent, it’ll make your novel a much more difficult read. The story is all about the characters, and when it comes down to it, is the reason why the readers are reading the story. So, ask yourself, why is my character acting this way here? How are they acting differently than in the previous chapter? Why is it important for them to act this way, or can I have them act more like themselves, and still get my point across?

Make your revisions based on your best judgements. Take time to read your work out loud after the revisions have been made. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes, not having any of the back story in their heads before they begin reading. If you’re still confused, and the editor is unhappy with your choice of clarifying on the revisions, it might be time to a) find a new editor, or b) do a self-evaluation on your writing style. It’s important to work with an editor who understands where you as an author are coming from, and what the story is at heart that you’re trying to tell. Editors are there to help the process, not hinder it. 🙂