Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 29, 2014

Guest Post – Erika Wassall – Revisions

Jersey Farm Scribe here on the Road to Revising! 

erikaphoto-45Pen down.

You’ve DONE IT!!! 

That’s right folks, you’ve written not only a beginning, but a middle and an end.

And it feels SooOOooO gooOooOood.

First… and please, don’t forget this step… give yourself credit. What you have done took talent and boatloads of commitment. You completed something most people only dream of even starting.

Get yourself a celebratory coffee/chocolate/wine/cupcake!

And then what?          

First things first:     DO NOTHING

WHAT? But I’m all giddy!! I want it to be perfect IMMEDIATELY!

Our manuscripts are worth the wait! Taking a step back for at least a week or two, sometimes as much as a month if I can stand it, gives a powerfully different perspective. Simone Kaplan Talks Revisions from RevIMo has some wonderful insight on this topic.

So it’s been a few weeks, and we’re ready to get started. 

Read the manuscript completely, OUT LOUD. 

While beneficial for any manuscript, this is especially important when writing for children. Forward Literary Agency has a thought provoking post by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg on its usefulness.

How does it feel rolling off the tongue? Is the dialogue natural? Are there inconsistencies or awkward spots?

Circle them, maybe jot down a note or two. But don’t linger! Come back later to play with them. For now, give it a cover-to-cover out-loud read.

And then, remind yourself, that’s YOUR BOOK you just read.


The Nitty Gritty

Now it’s time to get dirty! I scour over my manuscript looking for whole sections, concepts, sometimes even characters that can lift out.   It’s amazing what I’ve found.

Darcy Pattison has an excellent post about her experience cutting down an already short picture book manuscript, when she realized she was telling the WRONG character’s story!

When in writing-mode, we allow the heartbeat of creativity to take us over; an important part of the process for sure.

But then it’s time to go back over every page, paragraph even word, and say, what happens if I remove this? Do I miss it? Do I really NEED it?

And that means… yup… we all knew it was coming: 

Killing Your Darlings

A well-known saying that is for some, (like me!) often feared.

While this could easily be an entire post, Lisa Spangenberg words it so simply by saying “Style should serve the purpose of the text, not the writer’s ego.”

Sometimes our Darlings are pinnacles of style and make our manuscripts absolutely SING.

Other times?   –   Not so much. 

The couple week step-back is helpful here.

Sometimes I’ll no longer understand why I was so attached in the first place! Or I’ll realize with that Darling, I was writing for ME, not my audience or the story itself. Then it’s time to break out the strikethrough!

Easier said than done of course 

But hey. We’re writers. We knew this wouldn’t be easy.

Which brings us to our next step:

Call in the Troops! 

Good critique partners/groups are undoubtedly worth their weight in GOLD.   No one is good at everything. It’s beneficial to have multiple people critiquing your work, some good at grammar, some at emotion, word count, consistency, etc.

Kid lit has a wonderful article on the tricky balance of What a Great Critique Partner or Group Means.

Keep in mind, being OPEN to anything is great. But you can’t, and shouldn’t take all the advice you are given.

Kathy Temean herself put it best when she critiqued one of my manuscripts and told me, “Always remember that it is your story and you should follow the vision that you have.”

Let people point out things to consider. DO consider them. But remember that they are critiques, NOT corrections.

The revision list is endless. But I’ll wrap up with this category:

Personalize Your Process

Maybe you’re good at word count, but struggle with getting to the conflict quickly, or excellent at character development, but overly descriptive.

Write down a physical list of your sticking points. It gives you something to refer to. AND you’ll find yourself increasingly aware of these concepts as you’re writing.

Here’s a few that might make it to your list: 

Keep age in mind: Josh Getzler, agent and founder of HSG, in Agent Q & A: Revisions by Operation Awesome says that it’s one of the most frequent revisions he suggests. He often has to give direction on matching the age of the reader, with character age, plot, tone, etc.

Check your opening: If someone only saw the first 100 or 300 words, would they be HOOKED? Like Erin Harris, agent at Folio, mentions in that same Q/A article, this is where you’re selling yourself and your manuscript the MOST. If you’re not immediately hooked, perhaps you started in the wrong place.

Put lists in your list: Bruce Coville, author of the Unicorn Chronicle series, talks about how he keeps a list of words he knows he overuses so he can search for them later, in Cuppa Jolie’s great Wednesday Whip Tip.

And again, never forget that what you’ve already accomplished is something to celebrate! 

As Erin Bartels discusses here, patience is really the name of the game.

Not easy. But worth it, because your manuscripts deserve to be treated right!

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,




  1. All of this is so helpful and true! There are so many processes that go into writing that you need to revisit your manuscript so many times through so many lenses. Good writers groups and critique partners are worth their weight in gold because they can help guide us in the processes we may not excel in. Thanks for putting all this on the page…er…blog post 🙂


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  3. Great advice! Thanks for sharing!


  4. This was one of the best and most helpful articles on writing I’ve read since graduating from Notra Dame de Nameur University!!


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