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August 1, 2017
By Betty Kelly Sargent
Editor Betty Kelly Sargent answers writing questions submitted by readers. This month, she explores the challenges of revising a novel.

Dear Editor:

Any tips for revising a novel? I feel like I’ve been revising forever—am I just a perfectionist? How can I tell when it’s time to be finished with my revisions? —Margo

Good question. I’d suggest that you put your manuscript aside for two weeks. Don’t even think about it. Then come back to it fresh, with an open mind, and reread it carefully, making sure that the story is worth telling and you have told it well; the opening sentence is an attention grabber and helps the reader anticipate what’s to come; the characters are believable and well developed; the plot moves along swiftly without repetitions and the storyline always holds the reader’s attention; and the prose is clear, engaging, grammatically correct, and concise—try to lose the adverbs.

There. How do you feel? Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s clear that you’ve spent many hours on this, so I suspect that your manuscript is in good shape. Now send it to a trusted reader. If she suggests a change that feels right to you, go with it. If not, just go ahead and submit it.

John Searles, the bestselling author of Strange but True, puts it this way: “It’s time to send your work out into the world when you can read the entire manuscript and not feel the overwhelming urge to rewrite scenes or sentences, you believe your characters’ actions and motives make sense, and your narrative arrives at a satisfying conclusion. Also, I always give it to a few trusted readers first and get their take, as well.”

If you have a question for the editor, please email Betty Sargent.

Betty Kelly Sargent is the founder and CEO of BookWorks.