For once, I overwrote. I have a story that needs to be told in less than half as many words, so I thought I’d spend a little time and create a plan for this first revision.
This Week’s Revision Plan
- print out the story
- read aloud
- highlight best lines/parts
- cross out parts I don’t like
- ask questions to get to the core of the story
- write logline/ elevator pitch/ summary
- increase conflict
- explore possibilities
Questions to get to core of story:
- Who is this story really about?
- What does that person want more than anything?
- What is in the way of getting that desire?
- How will she overcome the conflict?
- Was the desire, once achieved, really what she needed?
- How has the ordeal changed her?
- Why is this story important?
- Why do I want to tell it?
- Repeat first steps 1-4
- focus on opening line: try at least ten other possibilities. Have I drawn the reader in with a whisper of everything to come?
- focus on ending: try cutting last line, last paragraph, try adding a paragraph or two to find real ending. Have I left the reader wanting more; feeling something, thinking?
- focus on dialogue: are the voices unique? dialogue as tight as possible?
- focus on setting: does every description do double duty (mood, symbolism, character development)? Is every object there for a reason? Have I described for the reader what I see in my head, really put it on the page?
- focus on characters: play with unique, concise descriptors (think pessimistic moustache). Does each character jump off the page? Can the reader relate to them, empathize with them?
- focus on the senses: have I created vivid experiences using all five senses? Are there sounds, smells, textures, tastes as well as sights? What associations am I trying to elicit in the reader with these choices?
- focus on sentence variance, sound and rhythm
- focus on sentence clarity: am I really saying what I mean to say?
- focus on word choice: strong verbs, specific nouns
- hunt for and remove over-used words
- hunt for and remove clichés
- print out and read aloud as a final spell-check, specifically for homonyms and other small errors computers don’t catch.
Looks like an overwhelming amount of work, but I have a week and many of the next steps will be revisited over the next few weeks of revisions as well. I’ll probably add to this list as I work. I hope you find it helpful. If you have revision checklists or processes that you would like to share, feel free to add a link in the comments.