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Revision

3 Tips For a Better First Revision

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The first revision is probably the most important factor in sculpting your novel. One of my favorite quotes to express this idea is by Shannon Hale who wrote: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” The first revision is the building of those sand castles. There are numerous tips to a successful rewrite, but I’ve found three that I’ve put at the top of my list to make my novel better.

Conflict check: On my rewrite, I first do a conflict check. Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that every character in a scene should want something, even if it’s only a drink of water. On my first draft, I will usually focus on the main plot point of the scene. In doing so, I miss opportunities to add tension, great and small, to a chapter. On the rewrite, I ask myself: what does every character in that scene want, and what obstacles are standing in his or her way. Read more

Be Your Own Editor: Tips For Self-Editing Your Own Work — July 15 Discount Webinar by Harold Underdown

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If you write for children or teens, whether you are a complete beginner or a published author, you know how important it is to make your manuscript be the best it can be before you send it out. How can you do that? Editing your own writing is difficult—how can you be objective about the plot and characters you created? How can you polish the final draft and find the mistakes you missed earlier? You can turn to others for feedback, and use a variety of techniques that help you get a new view of your manuscript. In this all-new webinar on self-editing titled “Be Your Own Editor: Tips For Self-Editing Your Own Work,” instructor Harold Underdown (The Purple Crown website) will teach you these techniques—ones he uses in his own work as an editor. He’ll also point you to more useful resources to make sure you feel confident revising your work before submission.

This is a special discounted webinar (about half the price of normal webinars), so take advantage of the lower cost, and the chance to ask Harold questions. It all happens at 1 p.m., ET, on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, and lasts 60 minutes. Read more

Self-Editing Advice: How to Tackle Character Consistency

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Keeping your character(’s) traits consistent is very a important step in polishing your manuscript, especially if it’s written from multiple points of view (POVs). For example, if you have one character who … Read more

Revise for Publication: Revision Strategies That Will Improve Any Draft — June 26 Webinar (w/Critique!) by Jordan Rosenfeld

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So you want to be published? It’s been said that after the wild creative outpouring, real writing happens in the art of revision. Your best chance of attracting readers is through strong revision, or “re-seeing” of your work, to appeal to readers of all stripes. Writers who learn to love revision are more likely to write publishable work that wins readers and leads to deeper satisfaction in the writer’s craft. This live webinar, called “Revise for Publication: Revision Strategies That Will Improve Any Draft,” will help any writer with the goal of publication learn to love revision. You can learn to enjoy revision by breaking it down into simple, successful “waves,” and easy-to-use “tools” that you’ll use over and over.

By the end of this webinar you will not only have tackled revision issues within your work but will be able to embrace remaining revision with a positive attitude. The webinar happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, June 26, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes. Read more

5 Things to Look For in a Critique Partner

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Writing can be a very solitary profession. And most of us like it that way – huddled at our vintage desks or curled up on our couches, muttering to ourselves while our coffee grows cold.

But once that draft is finished…then what? Well, I suggest you don’t run a quick spell check, type up a query and then send that puppy to agents the next day. What I do suggest is you find yourself some critique partners, other writers with whom you can trade manuscripts and feedback. I can say, without a doubt, that my critique partners were a key ingredient to my success at landing an agent and a book deal. Without them, my chocolate cookies would be hard. My cake wouldn’t rise. My soufflé would be flat. My…well, you get the idea, right? But not all critique partners are created equal. Here are the top five things you should look for in a critique partner.

GIVEAWAY: Megan is excited to give away TWO free ebooks of her novel to random commenters. Comment within 2 weeks; winners can live anywhere. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: rampmg and meetmilena won.) Read more

How to Critique Friends’ Writing

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When friends know that we’re writers, they sometimes ask us to read and critique their works-in-progress. Handling these requests can be awkward. As friends, we want to help; as writers, we want to protect our own writing time. If we offer professional critiquing services, as many of us do, we also want to protect our earning time. Here I offer several perspectives, from rather delicate situations, on how to handle friends’ requests.

When You’re a Fellow Writer: Pearl told me a truly horrendous story about helping a colleague. She had met Lydia (names changed for protection) in a local coffee shop. They bonded over a mutual devotion to mystery novels, respective blocks, and laptop frustrations, and started meeting monthly… Read more

Re-Vision? Easier Said Than Seen

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The most difficult aspect of revision is that the process requires seeing our own mistakes. That speck of dust in our neighbor’s eye is a lot easier to see than the log in our own. I learned most about sentence-level revision from Richard Lanham, distinguished scholar, writer, and UCLA professor, who has written a number of books, including Revising Prose, in which he develops the “Paramedic Method” (PM), a series of steps that help writers find both the sound and the sense of each sentence. Sound and sense: that’s what I like most about the PM. Aside from pushing us to see the ethics of writing, Lanham’s method reinforces the impossibility of separating structure from idea. The PM helps us see the axis of the sentence—both the actual main subject and verb, as well as the unacknowledged subject and verb. If we can see a difference between the actual and the unacknowledged in any sentence, it’s time to revise, to look again. Read more

The Art of Revision: Perfecting Your Book For Submission: Jan. 16, 2014 Webinar With Agent Michelle Brower

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All published authors can tell you that their first draft looks nothing like the finished book they sign at bookstores. How do they edit their material to take their work to a professional level? What are agents/editors looking for today in terms of a polished manuscript? Is grammar all that important, or should the story speak for itself? How many revisions should a manuscript go through before it’s considered “ready”? What are some principles on cutting down your word count and streamlining your story?

In this popular, intensive webinar, “The Art of Revision: Perfecting Your Book For Submission,” literary agent Michelle Brower will answer these questions and more. The event happens at 1 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes. All attendees will get a personal critique from Michelle. You can submit either a one-page synopsis or the first two double-spaced pages of your novel. (Remember that several agents — including Barbara Poelle, Louise Fury and Kathleen Ortiz — have signed writers after critiquing their work through a WD webinar.) Read more

Polish Your Work Before Submitting: 6 Revision Tips

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1. Listen to your critique group. When I first began to write, I was fortunate to meet some wonderful writers who became fabulous friends. We met regularly to work on our manuscripts. We worked to give constructive feedback to one another and because we listened to each other, our writing got better. We listened when the group told us the funny parts weren’t really all that funny. We listened when the group thought our chapters were too long. We listened when the group couldn’t relate to our characters. Listening to the group’s honest feedback made us dig deeper into our stories, making them stronger and better. Read more

Working with a Publishing House Editor

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Prior to working with Susan Swinwood, senior editor of Mira Books, my only experience with editors dated back to my college days. A short story called “ The Sand Castle” was picked up for our college literary magazine. The editor said he loved my story, but added that it could use “a spot of editing.” I didn’t really know what editing entailed, but was amazed at how changes he made to my story altered the flavor completely, not wholly to my liking. For example, he replaced a simple sentence like “He slipped out of the apartment” with “The urge in him wound itself around the door knob.” Many such robust edits later, the story still had my byline, but frankly I felt like it had been written by someone else. This unfortunate experience gave me a jaundiced view of an editor’s job, which I believed was to bully writers and mess up good writing (or at least my definition of “good.”)

GIVEAWAY: Shona is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: bendwriter won.) Read more

6 Keys to Revising Your Fiction

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1) Make sure you’re in love. I’m not a genius, my stories are not born lovely and perfect, their language strong, their plot lean and exciting. I have to work at it—a lot. And I don’t mind, because I enjoy editing. But I know there’s a big difference between revising a story I love and revising one I’m just fond of.

Perhaps this is obvious but to me the most important factor in ensuring successful revising is to be working on a piece that has legs or emotional resonance for you. If not, you’ll probably give up long before it’s in the best shape possible. So what’s the key to knowing if it’s love or just infatuation? I once listed all of the stories, screenplays and plays I’d written—over 30—and looked at the themes, characters and plot, and I was able to see certain patterns. Not surprisingly, whenever I loved a story and its themes and characters, I ended up revising it enough that it was perfect—or as perfect as I could make it. And that story usually resonated with others. Read more

6 Simple Keys To Revising Your Fiction

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1. Once you have finished a good first draft don’t look at it for a while. Go back to it after having some space and you will see it afresh. This is even more important for novels. When you have spent such a long time on a piece of prose you really need to get some distance from it to be able to see it clearly.

GIVEAWAY: Jenni is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Inkstrokes won.) Read more

The Art of Revision: Perfecting Your Book For Submission: June 20 Webinar With Agent Michelle Brower

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All published authors can tell you that their first draft looks nothing like the finished book they sign at bookstores. How do they edit their material to take their work to a professional level? What are agents/editors looking for today in terms of a polished manuscript? Is grammar all that important, or should the story speak for itself? How many revisions should a manuscript go through before it’s considered “ready”? What are some principles on cutting down your word count and streamlining your story?

In this popular, intensive webinar, “The Art of Revision: Perfecting Your Book For Submission,” literary agent Michelle Brower will answer these questions and more. The event happens at 1 p.m., Thursday, June 20, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. All attendees will get a personal critique from Michelle. You can submit either a one-page synopsis or the first two double-spaced pages of your novel. (Remember that several agents — including Barbara Poelle, Louise Fury and Kathleen Ortiz — have signed writers after critiquing their work through a WD webinar.) Read more

Revise Like You Mean It

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There is a fairly common misconception about what >b>revision means. That is, if you are a talented writer, you will write an inspired first draft, which you can perfect by making sentences better, fleshing out characters, checking facts, catching continuity problems, and the like. But real revision – in fiction at least – is a rigorous imposition of the imagination on a piece of writing that is certain to be incomplete, or that is fatally unsure of itself, or has a surety that will be revealed as false if you look closely.

True, there are some brilliant works that have come to the writer as a whole. This is a mystery to writers (and scientists, when it happens to them), and we’re all lucky if it happens once in a lifetime. Best not to count on it. Best to come to an understanding of what revision really entails. Read more

Let an Agent Help You Revise Your Novel: Michelle Brower’s Jan. 17, 2013 Webinar

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They say, “Good writing is rewriting.” It’s true that your first draft is just that: your first draft. After the words are down on paper, you must begin the important process of honing, revising, and rewriting your work to eliminate weak writing and make your prose come to life. Rewriting is a process of polishing your words and eliminating all needless elements that can slow a manuscript down. Most work gets rejected simply because the novel/memoir is not where it needs to be in terms of quality. The writer just needed more revision and guidance! It’s with this important fact in mind that we’ve enlisted talented literary agent Michelle Brower of super-agency Folio Literary to teach a new 90-minute webinar called “The Art of Revision: Perfecting Your Book For Submission” on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. Every attendee of the webinar gets a personalized critique of their work. Read more

How to Deal With Writing Critiques: 3 Helpful Hints

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As writers, we live with our stories and characters for years, even decades — so it is no surprise that when we take those stories out of our heads and put them on the page, our defenses rally to protect them. Hearing critiques becomes an intense and emotional experience. But those protective instincts and heightened emotions could be preventing your story from reaching its full potential.

As a first-time author, I had to learn to listen to feedback and filter it through my own vision for the book. I use a pattern of thinking that served me well during the process of writing and revising my first novel, The Fire Horse Girl. Read more

Peer Reviews: Seek Quality in Your Beta Readers, Not Quantity

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No one agrees on anything. As a journalist, I became adept at self-editing and even more convinced of the uselessness of outside criticism. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some great editors and they have done a stellar job in helping to craft my stories. But I have also witnessed what happens when a story is edited by several different editors, each of them determined to leave their mark. I have had one editor remove a section only to have another put it back in. I have read stories so thick with markings that I once again lost track of what I was originally trying to say. I developed strategies to avoid multiple editors, turning work in close to the deadline so there was less time for it to be passed around. Read more

Rules for Writing and Revising Your Novel

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When you revise, you must go back and fine-tune your work—add, delete—what needs to go in, be taken out. Repair the characters. Do it when your mind is still fresh with the scenes and the characters of that chapter. However, you must be unbiased (which is hard toward what you’ve just written), detached (which is harder from what you’ve just built), so you can see your own creative flaws.

GIVEAWAY: Khanh is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Bop won.) Read more

Footnotes: 5 Articles on Knowing When to Submit

“The most valuable of talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”- Thomas Jefferson Footnotes is a recurring series on the GLA blog where I pick a subject … Read more

The Revision Process: How I Prepared My Book for Publication

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1. Create a revision plan. I created a revision plan based on my publisher’s and first reader’s notes. Once I buy-in from my publisher to this plan, I was ready to get to work.

2. Don’t edit as you write. Write, wait a while, then edit. Leave your work alone for as long a time as you can before sitting down to edit it. While I spent over two years querying agents and small presses, my manuscript laid dormant. So when I finally got my book contract, I read it front to back, chapter by chapter, with my revision plan in hand. I marked up a hard copy with a red pen. Read more

The Value of Beta Readers: How They Help You as a Writer and Reader

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1. The use of stronger verbs to replace adverbs/adjectives.
He put the piece of paper in his pocket forcefully.
OR, He stuffed the paper in his pocket.

2. Whether the story flows.
Did the author follow-up on what they said in another chapter?
Does the story drag b/c the MC does nothing to further the plot–he wakes up, stares out the window, and eats breakfast (with no internal or external dialogue related to the story)? Read more

5 Techniques for Managing Group Critiques

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1. Know your group, and tailor your critique sessions accordingly. It’s helpful to begin each reading with a quick introduction, in which the writer is given the opportunity to communicate her needs to the group.

2. Ask each member of the group to read her work aloud, rather than simply giving group members copy to read silently. Reading your work aloud helps you check for awkward phrasing, clumsy dialogue, or a plot point that doesn’t ring true. Read more