Every Scrivener project is based on a template (i.e., a pre-set layout and formatting). Scrivener comes with quite a few to get you started—all based on the Blank template—but did you know you can create your own?
A project template can include files, folder structure, references, keywords, Label and Status values, and more. If you create your next project based on your own custom template, you’ll save time by getting right to work with everything you need already in place.
And, of course, you can create one or more templates for each type of project. It might take some time working with Scrivener before you figure out what you want in your template, but don’t feel like you have to get it all right the first time. I’ll show you how to make changes.
Understanding What’s Included
The easiest way to create a new template is to take an existing project that’s set up the way you want it and use it as the basis for your new template. The key thing to remember is that EVERYTHING gets copied:
- Label and Status field names and values
- Everything that’s in the Binder (structure, files, images, imported docs) and its related meta-data
- Compile settings
- Project Bookmarks/References
- All project-specific settings, like default text style, full screen settings, typewriter scrolling, etc.
Prepping Your Project File
To create a template, you’ll need to use an existing project, but strip out anything you don’t want to show up in future projects (like the writing!). To protect your work, you’ll make a copy to serve as the base for the template.
- Open the project you want to copy and go to File>Save As.
- Since this is going to be a throwaway project created solely for making a template, name the new file DeleteMe.scriv (or something that makes it clear you can get rid of it later), and choose a location for it (I like to use the Desktop for throwaway items so they’re easy to find and delete later).
- Click Save.
The name in the window header changes to DeleteMe. When you perform a Save As command (in any program), it copies the original and then closes it, leaving the new file (in this case, DeleteMe) open.
Removing What You Don’t Want
Now that your original manuscript is safe, you can strip out the manuscript-specific items in DeleteMe until you have a generic shell to use as your template base. Delete (Documents>Move to Trash) items such as:
- Chapter folders and text documents that are in the Draft/Manuscript folder (deleting a folder removes its subdocuments as well). If you have any front or back matter items in the project, you may want to leave them in the template so you don’t have to recreate them from scratch for the next book.
- Delete any images, PDFs, or other items in in the Research folder that are specific to the current book, but leave anything that’s useful for your series, or for all writing that you do.
- Check your Collections for any unwanted collections.
- Project Bookmarks (Project References in Windows).
- Project Notes (Windows and Mac version 2 only).
HINT: You can use multiple-selection to choose all the files to delete and then drag them to the Trash folder (or right-click and choose Move To Trash).
Adding What You Need
If you want to add any placeholder documents or folders, now’s the time to do it. For example, if you like to write by putting scenes in part folders, you could add folders for parts 1-3 or 1-4 (depending on your story structure method) and add an initial, blank scene document.
I also include the following in my fiction template:
- A Notes or Ideas document for keeping track of general story ideas that come to me while writing or brainstorming.
- An Unused Scenes folder where I move scenes that don’t make the cut. I like to keep all of my words, and I sometimes pilfer from these “practice” scenes later.
- A list of words I tend to overuse.
- A productivity tracking document where I note the hours and word count for each writing day so I can see how long it really took me to write the book.
- Various story structure or craft documents that I refer to on occasion.
- Separate folders for front and back matter (allows you to have multiple versions of each for compiling).
TIP: The easiest way to add a folder at the “root” level (same as Draft, Research, and Trash) is to select the Trash folder, and then go to Project>New Folder. You can use Edit>Move (Mac) or Documents>Move (Windows) to adjust the folder’s position up or down if you have trouble dragging it to the desired location.
Setting Up the Metadata
If you’ve been using the Label, Status, Keywords, or Custom Metadata fields, they’ll be in your template unless you strip them out. This is great if you use them for the same thing from project to project—like revision status, recurring characters in a book series, or story structure elements. No need to recreate them every time.
On the other hand, if you use Label, Status, or Keywords for something like character point of view, which may not be the same between books, you’ll want to take out the values you don’t need.
- To change the Label values or title, go to Project>Project Settings>Label List (Mac) or Project>Meta-Data Settings>Labels (Windows).
- The Status settings can be found at Project>Project Settings>Status List (Mac) or Project>Meta-Data Settings>Status (Windows).
- To modify the project keywords, go to Project>Show Project Keywords.
- To add, remove, or adjust existing custom metadata fields, Mac users can select the Metadata tab on the Inspector and click the gear button in the Custom Metadata section. Windows users go to Project>Meta-Data Settings>Custom Meta-Data.
Creating a Template
The hard part’s done! Now we just create the template from the shell we made.
- Before you do anything else, you want to empty the Trash folder; otherwise, all of that stuff we deleted will be included in your template. To do so, go to Project>Empty Trash.
- Now you’re ready! Go to File>Save As Template (several options below Save As in the menu). The Template Information window opens. NOTE: If you get a warning about personal information in your file, you can ignore it (click Continue) unless you’re planning to share your template with other writers.
- In the Title text box, type a name for your template that makes it clear it’s your own custom template and what it’s for (e.g., Gwen’s Novel Template or Novel-GH).
- From the Category drop-down, choose the category where you want it to show up (e.g., Fiction). This is the tab you’ll find your template under when you create a new project. TIP: Version 3 users can choose Custom and then add a custom category.
- (Windows and version 2 only) In the Description text box, add a description of your choosing (optional, but useful if you have a lot of templates).
- In the Icon section, choose an icon you like to represent your template.
- (Version 3 only) If you have styles that you want to include, check the box to “Save styles into template.”
- Click OK.
- Close the DeleteMe project.
You don’t need the DeleteMe project anymore because you were just using it as a basis for your template. At this point, you can delete it in Finder or File Explorer (or from your Desktop if that’s where you saved it).
Creating a New File From a Template
Okay, these next steps are just a review of the basics. The only thing that’s different is this time the template you’re choosing is your very own. How exciting! 😉
- If you don’t have any other projects open, the Project Templates window should have popped up automatically when you closed DeleteMe. If not, go to File>New Project.
- Select the tab where you saved your template. There it is!
- Select your template.
- If you want this to be your default template (the one Scrivener highlights whenever you create a new project), click the Options button at the bottom left of the window and choose Set Selected Template as Default.
- To create a project based on your selected template, Mac users can click Choose. Windows users skip to the next step.
- Name the new project and choose a location for it.
- Click Create.
- Give Scrivener a few seconds to process, and... There it is. Your first project based on your very own template.
Editing a Template
Maybe after working in your new project for a while, you realize you missed a few things. You can essentially edit your own template by replacing it with an updated version.
The easiest way to do it is to create a fresh new project based on the faulty template and then delete the new project when you’re done. Basically a repeat of the original process.
Once you have the new project ready to be templatized—yes, I coined a new verb—do the following:
- Go to File>Save As Template. All of the template fields should already be prepopulated with the info from this document’s original template, but if they’re not, fill in the details, leaving the template name the same.
- Click OK.
- When you get the overwrite warning, click Yes.
- Delete the sample project and you’re back in business.
NOTE: If you had wanted to create a slightly different template based on the one we were working with, you could have just saved as a new name instead of overwriting the original.
Do you see a use for custom templates in your own writing? What Scrivener questions do you have for me on this—or any other—topic?
Gwen Hernandez is the author of Scrivener For Dummies and and helps authors all over the world find the joy in Scrivener through her online courses, in-person workshops, and private training. She also writes romantic suspense (Men of Steele series).
In her spare time she likes to travel, read, jog, flail on a yoga mat, and explore southern California, where she currently lives with her husband and a lazy golden retriever. You can find more information about Gwen at http://gwenhernandez.com/.
I've been writing for twenty-five years. I started when an English-teacher friend suggested I write down the story that I thought about every night before I fell asleep. As a math teacher, I had no intention of writing a book, but I'd finished my first one, a medieval kind-of-fantasy-for-sure romance in only nine months, while working two jobs.
After that I started taking classes, joined writers' groups, reading writing craft books, attending conferences, found a couple of good critique groups…you know the drill.
As I (finally) finish the edits on my second book, I've been thinking a lot about my writing in the new decade—how it will change, what I can do to make it better. Here are my thoughts.
1. Learn more about and practice until I've got Deep POV in my Tool Box.
Lisa Hall-Wilson is a great resource for all things Deep POV. So is Margie Lawson. Here's what Deep POV is: The writer is in the head of the character, but is not writing in first person. Deep POV is for writers who prefer third person, but want to expose more of their characters' thoughts and emotions without distancing the reader.
Example from PRISM 2: Rebellion:
Before Deep POV revision: "Jericho lifted the cover off his plate. A portrait-perfect salad with artfully cut and placed vegetables. Too bad eating across from Gatfield ruined his appetite."
After revision: "Jericho skewered the salad with his fork. What he wanted to do with that fork would have landed him in jail for homicide."
Many people think Deep POV is about specific details. It can be, but remember that writing in Deep POV gives the reader information she can't otherwise see.
2. Pay more attention to what I've written immediately after I write it.
Laura Drake uses an Excel Worksheet for writing scene details after-the-fact. We're both pantsers. Outlining my book would take all the fun out of writing it, but I've spent way too long editing, and I see the value of being able to find at a glance where things happen, when characters are introduced, and look for the balance between plots and subplots and character time on the page.
I've spent hours searching for the name of a not-even-secondary character that ended up being more important and I couldn't remember his name seventy pages after his introduction.
3. Give myself enough time to edit...
Without cramping my time and potentially comprising the quality of my work.
As an eternal optimist, I always think I can finish whatever the task in less tie that it ultimately tasks me. Positive thinking only works so far. I have to put in the chair time, which I think I've finally figured out with this last revision.
4. Learn more about "layering in"...
Emotions, Deep POV, "inner life," backstory, character insights through multi-passes. (I'll need a class or a good book for this.)
5. Take at least one class a year...
That will challenge my ability and "level up" my writing.
In 2020 I'm planning on attending the Kauai Writers' 4-Day Masters Intensive. I'm sure there will be at least on new writing trend taught there.
6. Set small daily, or at least weekly, goals...
To keep my writing on track and my WIP progressing.
I'm not a goal-setter; I don't make New Year's Resolutions. But I have found that when I do strive for a reasonable word- or page-count, I'm more productive.
I know some writers have large wall poster with production calendars. I'm not to that point, but I need to hold myself accountable for showing up and writing on a schedule that works with my week's activities.
7. Write "tighter" in my first draft.
So far, my track record with word counts and finishing books, then revising them is, well, a failure. After three or four rounds of edits per book, I end up with a file of cut words which equals the size of the finished book. Yipes! How much more productive can I be if I don't spend that writing and cutting time?
That means sticking tightly to my characters' goals motivation, and conflict. No adding scenes that" enrich" what we know about the character, their backstory, their life. Only scenes that move the plot of the book forward belong on the page.
8. Figure out the hidden, sometimes from themselves, things that make my characters tick before I finish the book...
And have to edit in those very important details and cut the unimportant, though perhaps "quaint" beliefs that make them unique in their world.
(It happened again in this book. I was sure I knew what fired my female protagonist. Turns out, I discovered a deeply-held belief I hadn't known about before I got halfway through the final edit. Really? How could I not have known?)
9. Enjoy writing.
My process, sitting in the chair, listening to critique feedback and re-working—all of it, as I work. I do this because I love writing my stories and hope they will mean something to my readers. Why can't I enjoy myself?
How do you plan on growing your writing skill into the next decade?
Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
P.R.I.S.M., Fae's debut book, a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, and love is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Fae's second book in the series will be available for pre-order on Christmas, 2019.
Yes, the holidays are upon us, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed all your opportunities to sell a few more books before 2020.
I’ve collected a list of important dates and strategies that work really well with the amount of time we have left and I encourage you to work in as many as you can—you’ll be glad you did when you’re relaxing, happily sipping eggnog and sales keep coming in!
Offer Free Holiday Shipping
Amazon has spoiled most consumers for shipping charges. Customers flat-out don’t like to pay shipping charges anymore. Because shipping costs have increased, it’s become increasingly important for every other online store to follow suit.
If you do sell books from your site, I encourage you to eliminate shipping costs during December. If you temporarily eliminate shipping costs, announce the start and stop dates to your email list and on social media.
To add sparkle to this offer, let buyers know that you personally autograph books for recipients, which makes wonderfully personalized holiday gifts!
Double Check Important Sales Days
As the holidays approach, the dates for special promotions seem to pile up. Let’s review the most popular dates to keep on your radar:
When: December 24
What you can do: Here’s your opportunity to reach the procrastinator.
Remember, e-books don’t require any shipping time. Promote your e-book as a last-minute gift or virtual stocking stuffer for all those people your fans and followers might have forgotten.
An e-book also makes an excellent no-clutter fruitcake alternative to a host or hostess gift!
When: December 26
What you can do: There’s a bump in e-book sales starting on December 26 that goes through the New Year, so Boxing Day is book-marketing gold.
Why? Lots of people receive brand new eReaders and tablets for the holidays, and start playing with—and buying books for—their new toys the day after Christmas.
Many people also receive gift cards for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple for Christmas and other holidays in December, and people start redeeming gift cards for merchandise and e-books.
Advertise your limited-time discounted book as a deal for new eReader owners!
New Year’s Day
When: January 1
What you can do: Online traffic picks up in the afternoon on New Year’s Day as people start to wake up and recover from the previous night’s festivities. They also don’t want to let go of the holiday bubble yet, AND, as mentioned for Boxing Day, many have gift cards to spend.
Don’t forget New Year’s resolution season is in full force by now as well. Get creative with your book’s sales pitch!
If you write nonfiction, you can no doubt think of some sort of resolution to tie in with your topic.
If you’ve written fiction, go with the resolution to read more—reading more is so common a resolution, it’s almost always a sure thing.
Bonus Amazon Shipping Deadlines
When: The 10 days leading up to Christmas Day (depending on your location and the shipping options)
What you can do: This is a great opportunity to promote your paperback or hardcover books.
Use a “books make great last-minute gifts” message and remind fans and followers that they still have time to get a gift to people before Christmas.
And thanks to Amazon’s full-service approach, your buyers can have your book wrapped and even include a gift message.
Get creative and make a plan around each one of these major holiday shopping dates, so you’re ready to execute your different book marketing strategies with minimal effort and drama. Which means now’s the time to start planning and scheduling social media posts, pre-write emails, and secure any discount e-book promotions.
Do Your Own 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways
Everyone is familiar with the 12 Days of Christmas. The theme even has an established hashtag.
Consider whether you can organize all your giveaway and promotion ideas into a 12-day series to play into the theme.
Your 12-day series can be as simple as picking 12 ideas for bonus content, promotional materials, and giveaways and fleshing out your own details and timeline.
If your book has an “easy to shop for” reader audience, you can invest in 12 small gifts to encourage readers to engage with your brand.
For example, women’s fiction, which is broad and relatively easy to shop for, a 12-day theme could include a small box of chocolates, a beaded bracelet, or a Dead Sea mud mask. Think stocking stuffers! Offer one of the stocking stuffers for giveaway each day so your fans and followers engage with your promotions. Maybe to earn a day 1 entry, they email you a receipt for one of your books they’ve purchased. Day 2 they share a link to your book on Amazon on their Facebook account, and day 3 they submit a screenshot of their review of your book on Goodreads.
The options go on and on. Focus on 12 valuable things your readers and followers can do for you, match those with 12 inspiring rewards, and you’ve got a 12 Days of Christmas promotion nearly ready to go!
Most authors fall short because they assume they’ve lost their chance at success, when in reality that’s rarely the case.
Instead of admitting defeat, think, “What can I still do?” because there’s always something, oftentimes a handful of somethings that, when added all up, actually start moving the needle and producing results that will inspire continued, consistent efforts.
Have you ever done a holiday promotion? What other ideas do you have?
Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She was named one of the top influencers of 2019 by New York Metropolitan Magazine.
Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Amazon Optimization programs as well as Social Media/Internet book marketing campaigns. She is the author of eighteen books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, Revise and Re-Release Your Book, 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors, and Red Hot Internet Publicity, which has been called the "leading guide to everything Internet."
AME has had dozens of books top bestseller lists, including those of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal.
To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at www.amarketingexpert.com.
by Lisa Hall Wilson
One of the more common questions I get asked by those interested in learning Deep POV is: how do I know if I’m going deep enough for deep POV? How do you tell if you’re actually writing in deep POV? How do you know if you’ve “got it” or not?
Quick recap: What Is Deep Point Of View?
Deep POV is a stylistic choice to remove as much narrative distance as possible between the reader and the point of view character. It’s an immersive storytelling style of writing – like putting your reader in a virtual reality SIM or first-person shooter style of writing.
The problem, especially when you’re newer at writing, is that you can read a couple of blog posts and get a survey of the basics and believe you’re writing in deep POV. All I have to do is remove these few red flag telling words and I’m good. Not so much.
I spent ten years in that demoralizing cycle of: Am I in deep POV now?
No, not yet.
Deep POV is hard, it takes the idea of telling to new levels of intensity. Your internal dialogue must sound like the character is alone in their own head. The emotional depth is almost visceral. And simply obeying the rules isn’t enough.
To make deep POV work for you, you need to do more than know which words to avoid, you need to know what effect removing those words is aimed at creating. Then you strategically use that tool to create specific effects.
The Basics Aren’t Enough
The basics of deep POV are outlined in many many blogs online. Remove distance. Create immediacy. Write tight. Incorporate sensory details. Avoid naming emotions.
Most of the time, in deep POV, if you name an emotion: angry, hated, loved, envied, grieved, etc. it’s considered telling in deep POV. What’s considered telling in deep POV is perfectly acceptable in shallower writing styles, so it’s not that it’s wrong but it’s creating distance between the reader and the character and removing that distance is the goal.
Bronnie hated going to school. Everyone teased her. She trudged towards math class and wished she was anywhere else. The faces lining both sides of the hallway weren’t angry, in fact, they looked to be having fun. They laughed and giggled and pointed like she was the freak at the circus they’d all come to gawk at. She ducked into class, her shoulders sagged with relief, and counted the seconds until the bell rang.
This is very close to deep POV, but there’s telling, some emotional distance that feels like storytelling. Instead of walking that hallway with the character, the reader is in a theater seat watching this happen – which isn’t wrong, but it’s not the immersive effect we’re trying to create.
Below, I’ve highlighted where the telling and distance creep in, and anyone just learning deep POV will reword the sentences to avoid using those words. However, it’s still not diving deep into the emotions of the moment – what I call the character’s WHY.
How To Dive Deep
The reason this feels like storytelling is because the reader is being told how the character feels. Deep POV gets curious about how emotions feel and lets the reader decide what emotion is being experienced. Bronnie hated going to school. This is telling and author intrusion in deep POV because it’s there simply for the reader’s benefit. Deep POV is written as though the character moving through a scene doesn’t have an invisible audience.
Three more doors, then math class, and then she could escape. Go home to her books.
This sentence does more than TELL us she hates school, it SHOWS us how she feels. The reader now becomes the judge and decides what label to give that emotion. It’s a view through this character’s particular lens.
Everyone teased her. She trudged towards math class and wished she was anywhere else. The faces lining both sides of the hallway weren’t angry, in fact, they looked to be having fun. They laughed and giggled and pointed like she was the freak at the circus they’d all come to gawk at. She ducked into class, her shoulders sagged with relief, and counted the seconds until the bell rang.
The big red flag words here are “wished” and “with relief” because they’re telling, but removing those words/phrases still doesn’t put the scene into deep POV. The whole paragraph is written as though the reader is being told a story. There’s no intimacy, no raw emotion, no stakes, no why. Let’s try a rewrite aiming to remove the distance and immerse the reader IN the story.
Three more doors, then math class, and then she could escape. Go home to her books. Bronnie clutched three text books to her chest like a shield and set a fast pace as though the hallway were a bed of hot coals. The cool kids stood at their lockers waiting to pounce like bored over-fed cats. She kept her head down. Please don’t notice me. Please be too busy with your boyfriend and your gossip.
“Freak.” Lizzie’s high-pitched taunt had every head turn in Bronnie’s direction.
Her teeth ached and she unclenched her jaw. Just leave me alone. Bronnie shifted her books to ward off Lizzie’s insults.
“I donated that sweater to the church last summer. It has a hole under the arm doesn’t it?” Lizzy latched onto Bronnie’s wrist and jerked her arm up to point at the hole. The hallway roared with their laughter.
Bronnie jerked her arm free. Papa got her birthday gift at the church clothing bank? Heat from her chest erupted upwards, her face on fire. Her daddy’s the town drunk, Papa’s deep voice echoed in her mind. She don’t know any better.
Steven stepped into her path. Bronnie swerved to avoid him, clutching her books so he couldn’t knock them to the floor again.
He blocked her escape. “What’s the matter, freak? Cat got your tongue?”
She couldn’t swallow around the lump in her throat. Be the bigger person – maybe that was true, but Papa didn’t have to get to math class. Why hadn’t the bell rung? Her eyes stung.
She flinched from the verbal punch.
Steven’s head tipped up with the force of his laugh. “Loser!”
Tears welled up, but she sucked in a deep breath, enough to inflate her belly. She ran the last few feet to class. The bell rang and she slid into her seat in the front row. Safe.
Yes, the deep POV version is much longer. Deep POV will add to your word count which is why you need to be strategic with it. But do you see how this scene puts the reader IN that school hallway with Bronnie? The reader is left to figure out what emotions she’s feeling, but understanding how that emotion feels is more immersive than labeling it would be.
Can you see the difference?
There’s no storytelling, there’s just a raw experience filtered through Bronnie’s perspective (her perspective dictated by what’s important to her RIGHT NOW).
Now, if this scene doesn’t move the story ahead, if Bronnie just needs to get to class, then diving this deep will slow the pace for no reason. That’s where an understanding of the rules and the effect the rules are intended to create, is essential.
Starting January 2nd, I’m launching 15 days of deep POV where I’ll be going live on the Confident Writer’s page on Facebook answering the most common questions I get about deep POV.
Does writing in deep POV frustrate you? What’s your biggest struggle right now?
* * * * * *
Lisa Hall-Wilson is a national award-winning freelance journalist and author who loves mentoring writers. Fascinated by history, fantasy, romance, and faith, Lisa blends those passions into historical and historical-fantasy novels. Find Lisa’s blog, Beyond Basics for intermediate writers, at www.lisahallwilson.com.
The idea of finishing a manuscript is exhilarating—especially if you’re in the thrilling rush of momentum that is NaNoWriMo. (Hope it’s going great, NaNoers!) But as rewarding as it is to complete a draft, most writers know that isn’t the end of the road, just the first rest stop. Before you reach your destination—meaning agents, publishers, readers—you have to get out of the echo chamber of your own head and see what’s actually on the page. And for that, writers need objective feedback.
Yet once you get that feedback—whether you’re hiring a professional editor, sending the manuscript to your crit partners, or soliciting input from beta readers—what do you do with it?
It can be overwhelming to look at pages of editorial letter (often upward of 6-7K words, if you’re working with me), dozens or even hundreds of embedded comments, or an array of varying opinions among your critiquers and readers and process it all, let alone figure out what (and how) to translate that to your story.
Here are my step-by-step suggestions for how to navigate editorial feedback and most effectively approach revisions.
1. If there’s a separate note or letter of overview input, read it.
Read it more than once if you need to, but not too deeply. At this stage you’re not worrying yet about how to put any suggestions into practice, just taking it in.
After you’ve read the big-picture input, if there are also specific notes embedded in the manuscript, go through and read those too—again lightly, just to get a sense of the editorial thoughts.
2. Now step away.
The same way I advocate getting some literal and metaphorical distance from a first draft before you start editing and revising, I recommend taking in the gist of your editor’s or reader’s input and then leaving it alone for at least a day—more if you can. Let it swim around in your head—not necessarily in the foreground of your thoughts, but just percolating in the background as you go about your business. Don’t jump in and start revising yet—don’t even look at your manuscript during this time.
Instead be very, very kind to yourself. Getting feedback on your fresh literary newborn can be painful—even if you know it still needs work. We’re all tender in the creative places, and even the most well-intentioned, insightful, and constructive editorial input can smart—especially when it comes in volume. Have some wine. Take a bath. Walk your dog in the woods. Buy yourself a little something pretty. You deserve it, you fine artistic soul, you. You fabulous finisher.
Meanwhile, remember the old advice when you were in school to study right up till the day before the test and then leave it alone so your subconscious could process and internalize the information? Editorial input often seems to work the same way: While you’re taking good care of your hardworking, accomplished self, under the radar your brain will start making connections, collating the input you’ve received into categories, making a subconscious, orderly to-do list to some degree—and your mind will start mulling over the suggestions that most resonated (or most annoyed).
By the time you sit back down with the notes and your manuscript to contemplate revisions, you may find your subconscious already presents you with some clear ideas for improving your story.
3. Now it’s time to reread all the input, this time analytically.
A professional editorial letter will likely already be broken up into categories of specific story elements that may benefit from more development or clarification, but if not, break down the major points yourself: e.g., character notes in one category, plot in another, structure, tension, stakes, etc., each in their own. Usually you’ll tend to wind up with two to five areas of primary focus—and don’t worry for now about minor notes. With revisions it’s most productive to start high-level and drill down.
4. Let your gut weigh in at this point--how do the suggestions feel to you?
One of my favorite things to hear from authors after I return editorial notes is, “I knew that was what needed work!” or “It’s so obvious now—why didn’t I see that?” Not because I like being right in general (but oh, how I like being right in general), but because that tells me the edits resonated and are on the right track, that they hit on the places where the author was already aware, on some level, that her story wasn’t quite there yet, but couldn’t clearly see or articulate it till someone held up the mirror.
Those are the easy revisions to tackle—you already knew you needed to take a different route, and now you have a map.
The harder ones are those suggestions that rankle, that rub you the wrong way. These are the ones that you may feel a knee-jerk, visceral resistance to. The ones that make you snarl, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about” or immediately start to explain or defend your intentions or execution.
Pay special attention to these irritating suggestions—they may be off-base…but they may be critiquers doing you the great favor of highlighting a “darling” that might need killing. Try—hard as it can be!—to keep an open enough mind to at least consider the idea, even if it makes you want to chew glass.
I recently worked with an author who resisted my editorial suggestion that her use of journal excerpts wasn’t serving the story well. When she finally decided to take them out and just see how it worked without them, she said she immediately realized the improvement.
Remember we’re often too close to our own work—and our own beloved darlings—to be fully objective. (Writing hack: Never delete a darling completely. Move it into a separate file and save that puppy. Not only will it make it easier emotionally to delete it from your manuscript and offer a safety net in case you change your mind—like moving discarded clothes into a spare closet till you’re sure you’re ready to part with them—but every now and then you may also find that the material serves another story perfectly someday. Reduce, reuse, recycle.)
5. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground in certain areas.
You are the boss of you and your story. The same author I mention above didn’t agree with a few of the suggestions I made for fine-tuning her plot, and went in another direction—which wound up working beautifully. Feedback—even from a professional editor or agent—is subjective, and no story will please all readers. But note consistencies: If more than one reader or critiquer is telling you the same thing, you might be clinging to a darling.
In the above author’s case, she took the essence of my note—which was that a certain element wasn’t working as effectively for her story as it could—but effected the revision in her own way, rather than per my suggestion.
Remember Neil Gaiman’s advice about feedback: “When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” Meaning your story is your vision—readers may tell you (accurately) that you’re missing the mark, but how you redirect to hit it is up to you.
6. Problem solve, but only with a plan.
Now it’s time to start problem-solving—but still not in the manuscript yet. Just as you wouldn’t add on to your house without drawing up blueprints, first you need to chart your course for diving back into the pages to do the actual revising.
Did your readers tell you that any of your characters didn’t feel fully believable or three-dimensional, or their motivations were unclear? Then do the work—outside of the manuscript—to more fully develop who your main players are and what they want.
Were there parts of the plot where readers were confused, or their investment in the story lagged? Create an outline or bullet list of every event that moves the story forward (what I call an X-ray) and finesse that plot till it’s airtight.
It’s easier and more productive to think about these big-picture story elements first outside the full manuscript before you start addressing them directly in your WIP—you’re creating the metaphorical blueprint for revisions before you plunge back in.
7. You are ready.
Now it’s time to start revising your manuscript. As I suggest in approaching early-draft revisions, start with the macroedit areas—character, plot, stakes—and once those are solid, circle in tighter to the microedit areas like suspense and tension, showing and telling, etc. And last, address the line-edit notes on the prose itself.
One final word for when it’s your turn to offer critique: Remember how painful it can be to receive even the most helpful of feedback, and make sure to offer yours kindly, constructively and positively. And taking time to call out what especially resonated with you as well as what might need a bit more development can go a long way—I can’t tell you how many authors I work with tell me that just my smiley faces sprinkled amid what’s often hundreds of embedded comments keep them going through the hard slog of revisions.
Remember the Golden Rule, and critique unto others as you would have them critique upon you.
Note: This post is partly excerpted from my upcoming book Intuitive Editing: Creative and Practical Ways to Revise Your Writing. Sign up for my newsletter here for release updates, and to receive my 13-page guide on how to find, vet, and work with a professional editor.
Do you work with an editor or a critique group? How do you handle the feedback and the revisions to your manuscript? What questions do you have for Tiffany?
* * * * * *
Developmental editor Tiffany Yates Martin is privileged to help authors tell their stories as effectively, compellingly, and truthfully as possible. In more than 25 years in the publishing industry she’s worked both with major publishing houses and directly with authors (through her company FoxPrint Editorial), on titles by New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestsellers and award winners as well as newer authors. She presents editing and writing workshops for writers’ groups, organizations, and conferences and writes for numerous writers’ sites and publications.