Leaving the Hall Light On, almost entirely when she decided to publish my book. To revise my book I used many of the steps I learned while working as a writer-editor-manager of proposals to the U.S. Government. Here is my revision process.
1. Plan before doing. I created a revision plan based on notes from my publisher and advice from my first reader. Then I got my publisher’s buy-in.
2.Read before revising: Since I hadn’t looked at my draft for almost two years, I read it front to back with my revision plan in hand. I marked up a hard copy with a red pen and made no electronic changes to my manuscript until I was through. Wow did I find lots of things to edit, including typos, awkward sentences, repetition, and inconsistencies! I also noted where I needed to insert new material, move things around, and update anything out of date.
3. Use storyboards. I set up foam storyboards along the walls of the hall next to my office and pinned up a printed copy of each chapter as I electronically finished incorporating my first round of edits. Storyboarding allowed me see the book all at once and better spot redundancies, inconsistencies, places that needed cutting, moving, and expanding, and where each chapter best belonged. I highlighted problem areas in yellow, so I could see text I needed to revisit again.
4. Get others to review. After I completed these edits and reworked the yellow-highlighted portions, I gave three willing writer friends an electronic copy. One person did a line-by-line edit. He also found punctuation and sentence structure problems. Another friend looked at the content for repetition, inconsistencies, and writing accuracy. And the person who originally helped me create my revision plan read it again for organization problems. She made suggestions about where to move, eliminate, or combine material.
5.Stay in control. However, I made the final decisions about whether to take my editor’s notes or not. Even my Lucky Press publisher, Janice Phelps Williams said,“… Others can only offer advice. Only you can write this book.” So I reviewed each comment and fixed what I thought relevant.
6. Stay on schedule. Because I was reliant on other people’s inputs, I created a tight schedule. I allocated five months to complete everything, including incorporating my revisions and reviewer’s comments, merging the finished chapters into one document, gathering photos for the cover and body of the book, getting permissions to use quotes from other authors, and writing dust jacket copy.
7. Know when you’re finished. After incorporating review comments, I still felt the needed to make a few changes, add a few words, and edit a little more. Finally when I didn’t have any more changes or adds or deletes or reorganization ideas left in me, when my mind stopped living and breathing the book every waking moment of every day, and when I felt comfortable letting it go, I knew I was really finished.
Although Madeline Sharples fell in love with poetry and creative writing in grade school and studied journalism in college, her professional life focused on technical writing. It was not until later in life that she finally pursued her dream of being a professional writer.
Madeline co-authored Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994) and co-edited The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1 (Muse Media, 2004) and 2 (August 2010). Her poems have been published in two photography books The Emerging Goddess, and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer), and a number of magazines. Visit her at www.madelinesharples.com.