Caring for a bonsai tree is a simple matter of pruning. There is a clear level of artistic license to that care. A nip here, a trim there, and in the end, it comes out resembling nothing that ever came before. Each nip and tuck essential to its blueprint to form the bonsai.
I think of my writing as such canvas, loose ends and tattered flare. An adverb too many, the frivolous chunk of prose, or glaring plot gaps. The world that lives inside my head—born of my imagination wanderers and drifts like the branches of a wild bonsai if not tended.
But, what happens when I approach my work as a bonsai master and treat revision with equal importance to the creation of it?
It grows, it thrives, and it takes on a new shape, not only in my mind but in the mind of readers who will hopefully benefit from reading it in a more universal and communicative form.
First and foremost, I depend on my pruning shears. These handy dandies are fortunately never in short supply in the industry. I’ve found a few diamond-tipped gems over the years, from revision experts to editors, but one of the best tools for revisioning that I’ve found, especially on the long traverse through multiple passes with revision are my beta readers. Here are some specific guidelines to guide you on your mission.
~Your beta reader(s) should fit your market. Depending on the genre you write. You readers should match the kind of person you envision actually picking up your book from the bookstores the library, or online.
~Your beta reader(s) need to be unencumbered by alliances. They shouldn’t be your best friend’s kid or even worse yet, your best friend. Nobody needs that kind of pressure. Find resources where beta readers unite and offer exchanges for services through people you trust or serve in the industry.
~Think about particular sensitivities within your work. Seek out sensitivity Beta readers who represent the voice of your MC or supporting characters. If you have an #ownvoices take on your work then enjoy the advantage and use it to cultivate authenticity in your work.
~Thank them profusely! Whether you arrange payment for their time, or you work out an exchange, or they simply offer because they are a fan of your work, know that they did not need to add this to their plate. They are giving of their time and energy to help you, and whether they like your story or not, they did you a huge favor.
~When all is said and done, and your manuscript is snipped into shape, keep a growing list of these people in the tool shed. They may be willing to work with you again, or they may be able to connect you with others who can in the future.