Night She Disappeared cover

How I revise

file0002123467586I am feverishly working on a revision of a book that is due January 31. This is the start of a new series, so it needs to hook readers and keep them.

Here are some of the things I’m doing or thinking about:

  1. If I had time, I would let the book sit. Nothing like weeks (or even better, months) to give you the distance you need to see your work clearly.
  2. I asked a couple of people to look it over. I knew one of the problems was pacing, so I asked them to especially think about that.
  3. Since there are multiple points of view, I'm reading all of one character’s sections one right after another to make sure the voice stays the same.
  4. Is there anything in summary that I could show?
  5. Could this information be better conveyed in dialog?
  6. Have I appealed to all five senses?
  7. Have I slowed down scary scenes (as opposed to speeding them up)? Slowing down is actually more suspenseful in a tense scene.
  8. I will spend the most time on the last third of the book, which hasn’t been as polished as the first few pages.
  9. Looking at each chapter, I'm asking:
  • What is the exciting thing that happens?
  • Are there any surprises?
  • Is the character in any type of danger?
  • How can I tighten it? Ideally, how can I get the chapter under (well under) 2000 words?
  • Does the chapter end on a cliff hanger?

If you’re a writer, what kind of things do you do when you’re revising?



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Best of luck, April. These are all fabulous suggestions--I'm just now going back to a manuscript that has been sitting for months!
I am in the same canoe as you, just starting a series. I sent the first book in a couple weeks ago and am waiting, but wow, I am going to take another look in the meantime based on your criteria. So thank you:) I look for the same things, but you have it organized so much better than I do....
I could probably list 20 more, but at some point you just get numb/run out of time.

Starting a series is hard because you know there is so much riding on it.
Great list!

One of the things I ask myself is how each character has changed as a result of the story (or if they haven't changed, I ask how the world now views them differently).

When that's done, I get to work on the hard bit, making sure I actually show those changes taking place throughout :)
I also think about whether I am showing the character's core issue, like wanting to feel secure. And you're right, actually showing them is hard!
There are so many damned things you could pay attention to. You could revise for months and months.
Seriously, this is good stuff. I especially like your under 2000 word count per chapter. I think reducing, reducing cuts out half the problems already.
My number one thing is I always ask: what's the worst possible thing that could happen at this moment? Then do it and see how the characters respond.

I just finished a revision. a key thing was to create an accurate timeline, visually in a calendar. It really helped me solidify the action and make it stronger as it passed through a few holidays which added to the atmosphere and timing of the thing.
I like the worst question when I'm writing the first draft. It's the best!

With this one I actually had separate blank documents in Scrivener labeled Monday, Tuesday, etc. and I still forgot that a particular event always happens on Wednesdays. Luckily I caught it but it made for a lot of shuffling.
Last big revision I did, I wrote up little notecards summarizing each scene and then color-coded my plot strands. If one color was getting too much time in a row, then it needed some work. (This is how I discovered that the romance subplot was stalling everything else in the story.) One hopes that every scene will have a couple plots in play at once, and more plots in play in every scene toward the crisis point, etc.
Thank you for this super helpful post. It was so generous of you to share it, and it's just in time for me. I finished my middle-grade manuscript yesterday, and I'm ready to revise!
I also like reading it aloud. And if you can have an audience - even a cat - or imagine you are reading to your agent or editor, you hear even more that needs to be fixed.
When my critique group meets we usually hand our work to someone else to read out loud cold. It makes for some cringeworthy moments, but it's useful in showcasing the worst mistakes.