By Jacqueline Floyd
Your critique group has read the manuscript until they can recite entire passages from memory. There isn't a fresh pair of eyes to be found. This is one of those times in your writing career when you'll have to be your own toughest critic.
How to start? If you don't own it, go out immediately and purchase a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King. No self-editor should be without it.
The first piece of advice is a tricky one, but be objective. Ask yourself the tough question: If you hadn't written it, would you read it? Do you find yourself skimming? Does the phrasing seem awkward? Are the goal, motivation and conflict apparent in every scene? Ask yourself what the purpose is for each scene. Can one scene be combined with another for a better, stronger impact?
Have a bad habit of using that or was? Use the search and replace function on your computer to identify passive verbs and adverbs. The spelling and grammar tool on your computer can't be relied upon to catch all the typos and misspellings, but it's a place to start. Run the spell-check function over the finished manuscript at least once. You'll be shocked at the simple errors your eyes may have overlooked.
Check your pacing and proportion. Don't linger over unimportant scenes and then race through your turning points, black moment and resolution.
Pump up your writer's voice and our characters' voices. Make sure every word or thought a character has clearly comes from that character. If you have to rely heavily on tags for the reader to know who is speaking, that's a clue that your character's voices aren't strong enough.
Remember to backload sentences with dramatic and emotional words at the end of each paragraph and chapter for maximum impact.
Read dialogue aloud and listen carefully for awkwardness or inconsistencies.
And finally, trust your instincts. Don't fine tune the life out of the work. If a change doesn't make a marked difference, don't make it. Revising for the sake of revision is a pointless exercise. Set yourself a deadline, and hold to it. The perfect manuscript has never been written. Be satisfied in knowing that you've written the best manuscript you possibly can...at this moment in time. Next time, you'll be able to write an even better one.
Jacqueline Floyd is a member of RWA, OVRWA, OIRW, and the Golden Network. As well as frequently submitting manuscripts to agents and editors, she's won and placed in numerous contests including the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award of Excellence, RWA's Golden Heart, and OVRWA's first chapter contest. She writes short contemporary and single title.