by Lucy V Hay
So, you did Nanowrimo and you made it to 50K! Congratulations, but you still have work to do. That’s right, now you need to revise … But where to start??
If you are feeling overwhelmed, then check out these 10 revision pointers. They can act as a handy checklist.
First up, do NOTHING. That’s right … Just let that novel sit in a drawer or on your computer’s desktop. Do absolutely zilch with it, for a couple of days (minimum) or weeks (preferred) or months (maximum).
Let your subconscious bubble away, working on any of your story’s problems as you get on with other stuff. In fact, here’s a great list of things to think about at this stage. (If you’ve already done this, now is the time to get going!)
2. Prepare a copy
This bit is important. DO NOT have just one copy of your manuscript or screenplay – that way misery lies, Paul Sheldon style. Instead, send a copy to your eReader or print out a hard copy so you can make notes your preferred way. (Just make sure you can’t get sucked into typing more of it, so DO NOT read it on your laptop!).
You need to read it like a new reader would, so try and be as objective as possible. Don’t let yourself off the hook just because you like a character, scene, or line of dialogue. Be really honest with yourself and get ruthless!
4. Avoid revising the draft as you read
Remember, this is all about THE READ. There may be whole chunks that are dull, need fleshing out or make no sense. Remind yourself this is okay, it’s a first draft! Just write a few brief ‘notes to self’ to remind yourself for later.
5. Concentrate on the big picture FIRST
When you’re done with your readthrough, you need to concentrate on the big picture stuff first. These include …
- The concept (aka premise). Is it obvious WHAT this story is? Do I get a sense of the tone, genre and style? What has gone before that is *like* my story?
- Characters. Do my main characters WANT something? Does it drive the story forwards? Do I understand WHO is doing WHAT and WHY?
- Structure/ Plotting. Can I follow the plot holistically? Does it feel like there’s ‘enough’ at stake? Are there ‘story cul-de-sacs’ that don’t seem to go anywhere? Does the plot seem to escalate, or run on the spot?
A good tip here is to use a plotting worksheet LIKE THIS ONE. By ‘drawing the story’ – and understanding the characters’ actions within it – you are less likely to end up stuck in what I call ‘The Story Swamp’ in your redraft.
For more on writing craft, you can grab a free online mini course on everything mentioned in this article, HERE.
6. Next, concentrate on scene by scene
I like to write a list of every chapter or scene, then summarise what happens within it. In screenwriting, these lists are called beat sheets. It’s also a great way of working out whether there’s enough going on in each chapter in your book. You can cross-reference with your plotting worksheet and figure out if scenes are in the ‘right’ order.
7. Get rid of your obvious ‘writer tells’
Watch out for random info dumps that slow the read down. Info dumps are also a favourite of amateur writers, so you want to make sure your exposition flows smoothly. Last of all, make sure you identify your crutch words. Crutch words are those ‘filler words’ you personally over-use that can be substituted or cut altogether.
8. Sweat the small stuff
So you’ve worked on the big plotting and character stuff holistically … Then worked your way down to individual scenes. This means NOW is the time to really work on stuff like grammar, spelling and punctuation. I would also recommend ensuring your draft is free from purple prose, which are those overwritten, ornate chunks of text.
9. Stay positive
At this point, you may feel like your brain is about to explode. You may hate your book and have no idea whether it is good. THIS IS NORMAL and literally happens to all writers, even pro authors. Don’t freak out.
10. Get a beta reader (or two!)
Now you’ve written and revised your novel, it’s time for some feedback. Get a beta reader – this is someone who can give you feedback. Find them online in writers’ groups, via hashtags on Twitter and Instagram or at networking events (both on Zoom and real life). Alternatively, there are services where you can pay for specialist readers, though B2W always recommends exhausting your free options first.
Lucy V. Hay
Resident Writing Coach