Congratulations! You’ve completed writing your first draft.
Whether you’ve written a short story or a novel, the next step is revising your first draft. Following the “Six R’s of Revising Your First Draft” will help make the revision process easier.
- Reading. Reading as a reader. Don’t read as a writer or editor. You want to experience your story like your readers will. Does the story hook you? Are the characters and plot engaging?
- Rewriting. Rewriting sentences or sections for clarity and flow. Rewriting sections of lengthy detail (a.k.a. info dumps) to be more concise and give only necessary details.
- Replacing. Replacing weak words with stronger words. Replacing “pet” or “favorite” words. Replacing awkward phrasing with clear, concise phrasing.
- Relocating. Relocating paragraphs and chapters. Ensure events/information occur when they should in the timeline of your story.
- Removing. Removing sentences, paragraphs, and scenes that slow the story’s pace. Removing dialogue that doesn’t serve a purpose.
- Restructuring. Restructuring your story. Examine individual plot lines, characters, and scenes. Analyze story structure (e.g., Five-Act Story Structure or Three-Act Story Structure).
- Set your draft aside for a few days, and come back to it with fresh eyes.
- Some writers print their first draft. Some writers find it easier to leave notes on a printed version.
- Focus on one thing at a time. Focusing on everything at once can become overwhelming. Some writers focus on the big-picture items first (e.g., pacing, plot, structure) and then on characters and dialogue.
While revising, watch for:
- Awkward phrasing. Highlight words/phrases that don’t sound right or don’t make sense. Is your intended meaning clear the first time you read a sentence, or do you need to read it a few times?
- Pacing. Watch for parts of the story that slow down and drag. Make a note of these parts as this is where readers could potentially stop reading your book. Are transitions between sections that are slower or faster paced smooth?
- Plot holes and inconsistencies.
- Poorly developed or extraneous characters.
- Coincidences and too-convenient leaps of logic.
- Long, rambling conversations or sections of narrative full of detail (a.k.a. information dumps)
that can slow pacing and don’t advance plot or reveal something about the characters.
- “Pet” or “favorite” words and other words/phrases that are repeated frequently.
- Passive vs. active (telling vs. showing) words and scenes.
- Telling how the character feels instead of showing how the character feels.
- Scenes that use vague details instead of concrete details.
While revising, ask yourself:
- Does my story make sense?
- Does my story flow smoothly?
- Are transitions smooth or jarring? Look at transitions between paragraphs, scenes, and chapters.
- Is the plot compelling?
- Are the main characters well-developed and likable with strong goals and sufficient motivation?
- Do characters evoke an emotional response?
- Are any characters flat and one-dimensional?
- Are there any inconsistencies with timing, setting, plot, and character descriptions?
- What is the dialogue like? What dialogue tags are used? Are action beats used? Is the dialogue essential to the scene? Does dialogue reflect the character speaking?
- Is the opening compelling? Does it “hook” readers?
- Are there scenes and/or actions that are boring or too similar to other scenes and/or actions in the story?
- Are scenes a good mix of narration, action, dialogue, and insight?
- Are any actions unbelievable?
- Is the ending satisfying or unsatisfying?
- Has the conflict been resolved at the end?
- Is the POV effective and consistent?
What do you find the most challenging about the revision process? Is there something you like/dislike about the revision process? Please share your opinions on the revision process in the comments below.
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