How to Revise Your Book: Close Revision

[As an example of how to do close revision, I wrote the following two paragraphs as a first draft.  When I went through to revise it, I did a close revision.  I crossed off things that I deleted, and everything I added is in bold.]

After you’ve finished writing your book, you instantly think: “Imma get myself published!”   While that is every writer’s goal, you want to give your book its best shot at publication.  That means you want to Take a deep breath after you’ve finished writing your book. And means putting in Then do some hardcore revision time.

There are a different ways to go through and revise your manuscript, and you’re going to want to do it revise more than once.  If it seems daunting, just remind yourself that writing and publishing your first book isn’t a time sensitive matter.  You want to Take your time, and do it right.

One way to revise your manuscript is to do an overview revision, which I discuss in detail in this post.

Another way is to do a close revision.  Now, a close revision focuses less on the story, and more on the writing itself.  When you send your query letter and sample pages, you want the agent or editor to request more.  That means hard work.

Look over your manuscript, and look closely.


Close Revision:


Readability — Who is your audience?

  • If you’re writing a YA novel or a MG novel, you don’t want to say something like, “The cacophony of discordant songbird melodies resonated with acoustic clarity betwixt the ever-distant grassy knolls and the towering boles.”  While you might have the most beautiful prose since language first began, you want to make sure your writing is appropriate for your audience.
  • This includes appropriate actions.  If it’s a MG novel, keep an eye out for gore, violence, and sexual implications.  You can compare it to a movie rating.  Keep it PG if kids under 13 are going to be reading it.
  • Go through your manuscript and look at the adjectives you use.  Or hand your book to a beta reader and tell them to mark every time they see a word they don’t know the definition of.  This way, you can pick through and see what’s working and what’s not.


Syntax — Sentence structure.

  • As writers, we love what language can do.  Unfortunately, convoluted sentence structure can make it difficult for readers to understand what’s going on.  When we read it over, we might not see the mistake right away.  That’s the curse of reading something you’ve written.  You gloss over typos and mistakes, because your brain expects it to be right and fiddles with your perception.
  • This is where beta readers can come in handy.  They’ll point out areas where they can’t quite tell what is going on.


Diction (Word Choice)

  • This is closely tied to readability.  You want to avoid using obscure words that people won’t understand.  And god forbid you’re inventing your own terms.  Make sure to define them in context!  You don’t want to have your readers reaching for a dictionary.  If a reader has to reach for a dictionary, they’re putting down your book.  The last thing you want to do is give readers a reason to put down your book.


Extra fluff

  • When reading through your manuscript, you’ll want to pare down your word count.  It’s okay to add to word count if you’re doing an overview revision.  Sometimes you need to add more scenes to make things make sense.  Yet when you are doing a close revision, you’ll almost always cut down on word count.  In fact, you want to go through with the explicit goal of reducing word count.
  • Check to see where you are over explaining.  Examples of when to cut down:
    • She considered escaping, but they were sure to would notice the shift of weight, and she didn’t even want to think of what the consequences might be.
    • He didn’t look like he was wasn’t more than a year older than her.
    • He was running through the trees, and the assassin was catching up. He ran through the trees, the assassin only a few steps behind.
    • She hadn’t thought didn’t think that he would wanted to go with join her, but , Now she wasn’t so sure.
  • Notice how the revisions above all reduce word count.  They also remove passive language (“he was running” becomes “he ran”), and observation language (“he didn’t look” becomes “he wasn’t”).  You can also remove things that are implied by the actions.  We can assume, in the first example, that there would be consequences.

5 thoughts on “How to Revise Your Book: Close Revision

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