Start from the beginning

First, OUTLINE. If you're not an outliner, too bad. Time to outline. :P Even if you had an outline to write your first draft, you have to make a new one. The point of this is that you're outlining the book you're about to write (because remember, you're basically going to be rewriting 80-90% of the story anyway.). Since you're not exploring and freewriting anymore (that's generally first draft stuff, and by now you know the story and the direction you want it to go, how it all fits together, and all), you'll want to make a detailed outline of each chapter as you plan to rewrite it or revise it. Be as detailed as you can becuase it'll save you a bunch of time when you actually get writing.

You're basically implementing all your revisions short-hand with an outline, and that'll help you see faults and shortcoming in the things you wanted to rewrite! It's your novel: Abridged Version, and it'll save you a lot of struggle. So it's highly advised you actually create an outline before jumping head-first into revisions. It'll keep you organized and keep your head from exploding from all the things you need to change.

But if you're still adamant against outlining, here's a tip: Because you probably have a mountain of things to change, I'd suggest picking one at a time and going through the entire novel fixing just that single element. Make a checklist and feel good when you check something off! Don't try to start back at the beginning and fix everything at the same time as you go along. You'll drive yourself up the wall and end up in a sobbing mess under your bed in fetal position.

6. When you finish those edits, THROW YOURSELF ANOTHER PARTY! Draft 2 complete!!!

7. Now read through and repeat all this a second time. Keep reading it over and revising until you you've edited it to the best of your ability. Once you can't look at the words without vomiting, you. are. ready.

8. Time to send it to your critique partners! Find people you trust, not your mom or best friend (unless they're published authors or agents or editors, then they're actually the best resources so USE THEM). Find someone who'll give you insightful, critical feedback. Hang out on critiquing sites and forums. Wattpad is not the place to find critique partners. Everyone here mostly does line edits and points out typos. What you need is someone to rip apart the big-picture things for you again.

8. Compile all the critiques in one spot. I use OneNote and just paste everything in one tab. When I revise whatever they told me to, I delete it off the list.

You most definitely will get conflicting critiques! On my original opening paragraph for Guardians, half the people were like: "This immediately gripped me!" and the other half were like "nope. try again." I loved the line, so it's like, what do I doOOO!?!?! In most cases, I'd say if at least 2 people give the same criticism, you listen to them. (Unless it's blatantly wrong, like they're like: THESE TWO SHOULD'VE KISSED AND FALLEN IN LOVE AND THER HAS TO BE A LUV TRIANGLEEEE YUSS.) If everyone loves something but there's just one person who flat out hated it and didn't give an insightful and valid reason why, you don't have to take their advice. But if you think on it and realize yeah they were right, then absolutely go change it!

For example, one of my critique partners was the only person who caught onto the fact that the non-mages should've feared magic, not accepted it as normal. Even though she's the only person to criticize that, it makes perfect sense, and I can see the story strenghtened by my changing it.

Then there's another critique partner who told me to cut out Joren. Like, he's a protagonist... I slept on it a few days, tried to picture the story without him, and it turns out he's so deeply intwined with all the other subplots that it's impossible to extract him without completely changing the plot. And that new plot wouldn't be the story I wanted to tell. I asked a couple other people for second and third opinions, and they were like: wtf no don't take him out! Plus, that critic wasn't a fantasy reader at all (she's like a contemporary romance person, which is the complete opposite of Guardian's high fantasy), so she was daunted by the complexity of Guardian's plot, while my fantasy readers were able to follow along no problem. So you also need to look at WHO's giving you these critiques.

So Joren stays! :) You have to take all these factors into consideration when deciding how valid a piece of constructive criticism is. It's hard to do sometimes, so always get second and third and fourth opinions when you can. Ultimately, stay true to your gut and tell the story you want to tell, not the story others want you to tell. But sometimes other people can point out weak spots you never noticed, and now that you notice them, their suggestions to change it actually make the story MUCH better!

Another tip: after reading a critique, take a deep breath and x-out of the screen (or put the manuscript away) for a day or two. Come back to it later once you've calmed down. You'll see it in a different light. It always happens to me that whenever someone gives me criticism, my gut reaction is: NO WAY MY WRITING IS PERFECT YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT YOU PEASANT. But I suck it up and put it out of my head for a day or two. Then when I come back to it later and reread it, I'm like: Ohhhhh that makes sense now....

So never, ever fight back with your critique partners. Don't argue anything ever. You can ask for clarification, though. But don't discard their suggestions the moment you get them.

9. Rinse and repeat.

Keep rewriting and sending out to critique partners and using their feedback and rewriting and rereading until you've addressed all the issues and until you're satisfied with the story. Then print out the manuscript again and go over it one more time for typos and sentence structure and flow and all that technical stuff. This is surface polishing.


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