The Most Important Thing To Do Before You Start Revising

Does your draft need to be completely rewritten? (Hint: Probably not.)

For many writers, the process looks a lot like this:

One common question that writers ask me is, “How can I know when my work is finished?” Well, in the words of French writer Paul Valéry, “un ouvrage n’est jamais achevé…mais abandonné,” or “a work of art is never finished…merely abandoned.” Even so, we want our work to be the best it can be. If you have reached the end of a draft, it might be time to ask for feedback. But it’s important to do this in the right way. Here are a few tips to keep in mind so that you can make the most of your feedback.

Let It Rest For A While

When you finish a draft, it’s important to set it aside for a while — at least a few weeks. That does not mean “send it out to friends and wait for feedback.” It means actually let the whole subject rest for a while. Let your subconscious do some work, and get to work on something else. Ideas will, no doubt come to you for your resting manuscript, and you should definitely capture them. But don’t dig into the manuscript again right away. Let everything have room to breathe.

When the manuscript is cold, you can view it more objectively. After this time, reread your work. You might discover that there are plenty of improvements to be made before you ask anyone else. Once you are confident that the piece is strong, or if you feel there are improvements to be made but you don’t know what they are, it might be time to ask for some feedback from a reader.

Before You Ask For Feedback

If you think you are ready to send your work out to a reader, please do not forget the basics. Use a spelling and grammar checker, such as the free app Grammarly. Make sure that the formatting is clean and consistent. Your manuscript should be double-spaced with one-inch margins is a 12-point font such as Times New Roman. Your work needs to be easy for your reader to read. It is difficult to read something critically, and you don’t want your reader to be distracted by lots of fonts or bad grammar.

How To Ask For Feedback

Never, ever send your work to someone and ask them if it’s good. Good or bad is not a valuable assessment — it gives you no direction. If you are going to ask someone for feedback on your work, try these questions:

These answers will guide you to the specific parts that need improvement without judgment.

Remember That Not Everyone Will Agree

If you ask ten people for feedback, you will get ten very different — sometimes conflicting — opinions. There is not a piece of art in the world that appeals to absolutely everyone. If you don’t believe me, go to Goodreads and read some of the one-star reviews of Hamlet or One Hundred Years of Solitude. One or two trusted readers will yield plenty of valuable feedback. You don’t need more.

The best way to stop a hamster wheel from spinning is for the hamster to simply step off. Don’t be afraid to put your work down for a while before you get feedback. Sometimes stopping for a while is the best way to get ready to move forward. And, in the meantime, if you’d like to start a new project or keep up your daily writing practice, here are a few ideas to jumpstart your imagination.

Lisa Papademetriou is an author, entrepreneur, and business school dropout. She’s the founder of Bookflow, a tool designed to help writers reach their goals by boosting organization and motivation. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram. Email: lisa.papademetriou@bookflow.pub

I’d love to connect with writers eager to take their work to the next level, to encourage and help guide them using my experience as a writing instructor at the MFA level, editorial experience (at both small and Big Five publishers), and bestselling author.

Helping writers craft better plots. 🖋 Founder, Bookflow. 📚 Sign up to get my free novel outlining guide and 36-scene template. https://bit.ly/2YBOKSt