Revising Your Story (Step 1 of 2)

Start from the beginning

-Proofreading a story is about spelling, grammar, and fact-checking.
-This is less to do with the big picture than revising; it more about getting the actual language on the page down pat, as well as checking to be sure the things you present as facts are, in fact, factual. You can practice good proofreading on a piece of writing of any length, on a sentence right after you write it or on a whole book years after its completion, though writers tend to proofread in smaller chucks than they revise.

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In Veronica Roth's words (Author of Divergent series):

I usually write a hasty list of issues right when I finish a draft, because I don’t let myself edit as I go and I don’t want to forget the problems I already know about. So for Book 3, I already have seven or eight large issues in my “problems” column. Some problems to watch for:

-Do all the characters, major and minor, have some kind of arc or clear, defined presence in the story? If they are supposed to be missing, is this something that is explained or wondered about by the main character? This is one of the problems I always have, because when I draft I focus very much on the major characters and forget that there is a large cast of minor characters waiting in the wings. In the rough draft of Insurgent, Christina disappeared for over 100 pages. Not good.

-Have you built to the ending effectively? Most of the time I discover the ending of a book when I’m right in the middle of it, so the first half of the book may be building toward a completely different ending.

-How is the pacing? Are there places where it is too fast or too slow?

-Are there any sections with “infodump”? (Meaning, sections in which information is unloaded on the reader all at once instead of revealed slowly and through plot movement.)

-Are there any extraneous characters, scenes, or plot elements? You can identify these by asking yourself (honestly) “if I removed this event or character, would I still be able to build to the end of the book without losing too much?”

-Are there any characters, scenes, or plot elements that you must add for the book to be rich enough or to make sense?

-Are there any logical issues or inconsistencies with the world-building or plot?

-And the lesson I learned from Insurgent: are there any inconsistencies that resulted from writing scenes out of order or from author confusion? (Like magically disappearing guns, characters who are in places they shouldn’t be, characters with two different names, etc.)

With those questions in mind (and more of your own, I’m sure), I read through my draft quickly. I say “quickly” because it’s not useful, at this stage, for me to address sentence issues or take notes about sentence or paragraph-level problems— this is just the first read-through. What I want to notice are BIG things, and a quick read-through is good for letting me do that while helping me to set aside smaller concerns.

While I’m reading, I’m looking for both problems and opportunities. When I notice a problem (“Christina disappears after page 30”), I jot it down in the left column in my notebook, along with page numbers or other references. When I notice a place in which a problem can probably be addressed (like: “Christina could be present in this scene on page X, and this one on page Y”), I write it in the right column with page numbers or other references. 

When I’m finished, I make sure that I have a solution planned for each problem I’ve recognized. If not, I brainstorm them. Then I arrange my solutions into a big long list, and…well, I’ll save the next step for another day.

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^^^^That is a great method which really covers everything I try to do in my revisions. So you see, both a published, internationally known author and an amatuer like me can use it! Which means you can too. :)

Now, that's just day one! Veronica Roth also made a "day two." It's really, really helpful, and if you want to check it out, I'm linking it on the external link on the side!

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8 -  Get Feedback
Now, I know from experience that this is easier said than done. We're told to get beta readers, or get critques, but it can be really difficult to actually find someone to do it for you, or do it well. However, it's really important. I can't tell you how to make a beta reader appear, because I'm still trying to figure that out. I just wanted to let you know that it's important that you start looking, because we all need somebody else's different point of view to critique our story!

With all that said, I feel like there's so much more to this process that I could include, but perhaps there will be a Part 2!

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