Revision Checklist Revisited

I blogged awhile ago about the importance for writers of developing a revision checklist. Since I am in the throes of revisions to my work-in-progress (WIP), I thought I would revisit the topic.

Keep in mind as you begin to tackle revisions there are two levels: the marco and the micro. Macro issues are the big stuff:

–What is the premise? It is clear to the reader? Is it stated early in the story?

–What is the theme? The theme might not be evident, even to the writer, upon completion of a first draft. Every writer works differently. Some cannot put a word on the page until she works out the theme. Others have to discover the theme as they write. I’ve done it both ways, but knowing the theme when at the start is a clear advantage as it allows the writer to tailor the story to support the theme.

–What is the main character’s internal goal? Is it evident? It is introduced early in the story? Are the obstacles placed in her way plausible? Are the stakes high or will the reader say, “Who Cares?”

–Does the ending pay off the story? Spend a lot of time on the ending and make sure it pays off the premise and is not predictable.

Here are some good questions on revisions posed by author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford. Read the post.

Once the writer has finished the macro level revisions, it’s time to tackle the micro level changes. Writing on the Grub Street blog, author Mary Carroll Moore offered a useful series of five checklists a writer should complete as part of the revision process:

–Continuity check, This list focuses on continuity in terms of locations, characters, and objects. Seemingly minor details can trip up the writer. If the living room is located to the left of the front door on page 30, it cannot be placed to the right on page 200.

–Table of Contents against Chapter headings, page numbers, etc. This is obvious, but important. I like to save this one until the end, when all other changes have been made.

–Beginning and ending of each chapter and the book as a whole. She offers three incredibly helpful tips here. One is this: if a chapter ends with one point of view character, make sure there is an identifier early in the next chapter when that point of view changes,

–Sentence and paragraph length. When writing long-form fiction, it’s easy to get this wrong. Too many long sentences and blocks of text will feel daunting to the reader. Break up sentence and paragraph lengths for readability.

–Final grammar and spell check. Enough said.

Read the full post.

Finally, Fiction Writers’ Mentor offers an excellent editing checklist here.

Self-published writers often shortchange the revision checklist in their eagerness to publish. Reviewing these checklists and others available on the internet can save writers a lot of embarrassment.

What about you? How do you go about revisions?



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4 responses to “Revision Checklist Revisited

  1. A solid list– so many times, I’ve found that a friend is overly focused on grammar/spellcheck when they should be tightening (or expanding) themes.

  2. “the marco and the mico.” – I’m sorry, I think you might have had a typo here, but I couldn’t help but laugh at this phrase.

    These are some solid questions, though. Some of which I’m still grappling with on a regular basis.

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