Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Revision Checklist: Do you ever do one of these?

When you are finished the first draft of your manuscript how do you usually go about editing it? Do you read it through and then fix anything that doesn't read right? Do you look at the grammar and structure of the manuscript? Do you just sit there and stare at your finished manuscript and say, "What should I do with this thing?"

Consider doing a Revision Checklist. The writer, James Scott Bell suggests this as well. Go through your entire manuscript and scan for the following:

1) Characters - Do they grow throughout your work? Are they likeable? Why should the reader care about them?

2) Plot - Is there conflict and tension in each scene? Is each scene absolutely necessary? Are you building tension steadily throughout to reach your climax? Are loose ends resolved at the end?

3) Tone - This is one of those abstract ones and it always throws me for a loop when I'm writing the first draft, but basically, what is the 'mood' of your piece of work. For example, if you're going for a 'dark' mood then perhaps study your dialogue and descriptions to ensure they are consistent with the mood you are trying to evoke.

4) Voice - This is another abstract concept, but basically, if I am reading your book what distinguishes your voice from any other author? What makes your voice unique?

5) Dialogue - Is it believable? Can it be cut down at all (i.e. no useless dialogue like "Hi, how was your day?" "My day was fine thanks." "My day was fine too."). Make sure dialogue is focused on your plot or character development.

6) Pace - Does your story take too long to develop? To short a time? Do you need to elaborate in some scenes to build the tension? Do you need to cut back some descriptions (etc) in other scenes to speed up the pace? Do you need to cut down on exposition that isn't really necessary for the reader to know?

I find that a checklist helps me focus on what to look for when I'm editing my work. Sometimes, deciding where to start when it comes to revisions can be daunting, but a checklist helps to break it down into manageable steps.


  1. This great checklist came along at just the right time as I'm editing now. You said it right, manageable steps.

  2. Good checklist. I confess, I fix grammar first, just because I can't properly read and edit with those glaring little mistakes.

  3. Thanks for the comments! I tend to check my tone and character development first when I'm editing.