Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Digging for Gold aka Revision

by Deb McLeod

Deb McLeod's novel revision process
My first beta reader reaction is in on the first 200 pages of my novel “The Julia Set.”
She says: “This is a very polished piece of work, and if you just keep loading the progression of events as you have been doing, you will have a winner on your hands. It’s offbeat. It’s genre bending. But it's also well written and it makes sense. It’s a challenge to a reader in a GOOD way.”
Yeah, I’m floating on that. My first beta reader and good friend, Liz, is a writer with several of her own books published and a savvy reader. I chose her on purpose because she knows my writing and knows what a departure this novel is for me. The overall comment she made is fantastic but she still had some suggestions and some areas that need work. I can ride the energy of her words right though the tough spots of what comes next.


Here’s the five-part revision checklist I will use for “The Julia Set.”

One – Answer beta reader issues (or dismiss them if you don’t agree)

  • I don’t understand this.
  • That plot line might be overreaching.
  • Explanation of this part of your world comes in too late.
  • Little nitpicks, etc.
Two – Descriptions – my own issue with my own writing (what’s yours?)
Look at descriptions of people and setting. Are they too long? Nonexistent? Reveal enough to anchor the reader the first time we meet a character? 

Three – Scene by scene – take it one step at a time 
First scene: 
  • Look closely at the hook and the first line of the book
  • Does the opening reflect the ending?
All scenes:

  • Does this scene need to be here? (I will do this because the book is long.)
  • Does this scene advance the plot? Reveal character? Or should it be cut?
  • What is a distraction from the core story?
Four – Word by word, paragraph by paragraph:
  • Look for repetitive thoughts
  • Look for excess language. Eliminate excess words
  • Look for –ing, -ly, seem, seemed or worst of all seemingly (my pet peeves)
  • Look for sentences that begin with “There” or “It”
  • Look for the ‘to be’ verb and passive language
  • Search for consistency in name changes I made halfway through
  • Search for italic and make sure it follows the rules (when the Angels speak on the human plane)
  • Check open and close quotes
Five – How does it go?
Check the pacing and chapter breaks. Update the chapter spreadsheet to check page numbers per chapter and closing line.

Revision Cheat Sheet

There are many more revision items you might add to your checklist. My clients use a cheat sheet that we create as we go along. It contains habits they want to work on and notes about what to look for before they send their pages to me. Some of them keep the cheat sheet taped on the wall near the computer so they’re revising as they go.

My cheat sheet says to look for –ing, look at dialogue tags, and WRITE MORE DESCRIPTION.

What might yours say?

About the Author: Deb McLeod, is a writer, creative writing coach and founder of The Writing Ranch. She has both an MFA and a BA in creative writing. She has been teaching and coaching for over ten years. Deb has published short fiction in anthologies and journals. She has written articles and creative nonfiction. Deb has been a professional blogger, tech writer, graphic artist and Internet marketing specialist. 

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