Rivi... Rive... Revision (Or, How to Love the Red Pen)

WritersdontcryRevision? You might say, In the romance month? What are you, crazy? But I tell youRevision truly: as an author, editing is the greatest act of love you can perform for your book, your characters, your editor, and your readers. And, of course, I make no secret that I am an editor--and that I LOVE editing. So, think of this as my funny valentine to that most unpopular of tasks--revision.

When editing a book, it helps if you review it three times: once to find the heart of it, once to find the bones that give it structure, and once to smooth the words that clothe it. These three anatomical passes should be done in this order, as each step builds upon and is more detailed than the last, starting with the essence of your book, and diving down into the details of how that essence is expressed on sentence and even word level.

By the time you are done, you will understand your story front to back, inside and out. Your words, scenes, and twists will fit together like puzzle pieces, and your character and plot arcs will sing seamlessly throughout your story, echoing and building until they sweep your readers off their feet. But the path to all that glory is paved in the dark arts of the red pen. So, if you’re not afraid to get a little detailed, let’s dive right in.

The Heart: What Is Your Story About, Anyway?

The first thing you have to do is to find the heart of your story. It may sound silly, but figuring out what your story is actually about is the single most important question you can ask yourself . . . after you finish your book. I mean, I’m sure you had some idea of what you were about when you started to write the whole thing, but books are a funny thing. Like living creatures, they grow of their own accord, twisting and taking in everything that you feed it--consciously or not. And in order to polish and cut your story to best show its brilliance, you have to first identify what makes it sparkle.

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