Get the Nonfiction Editing and Revision Checklists Printables

Today I have 4 Steps for Revising your book LIKE A BOSS! Revising may not be your favorite part of the writing process, and that’s okay. Every writer has their own favorite part. For me, it’s the Big Magic. More on that coming up.  

The Beginning of the Story

For me, starting a story is absolutely, without a doubt, unequivocally the most challenging part. Why is that? Well, it’s because I don’t necessarily know the characters well enough yet, especially if it’s a first-in-series book. The beginning is also when I introduce new characters. Since I write mysteries (among other things), that means I’m adding people to my red-herring situations, creating false suspects, and fleshing out the victim and the villain. (It’s also when I procrastinate 😬) After I finish the first draft of a book, I inevitably end up going back to the beginning and reworking it. I do this because all those characters (new and old) have evolved through the writing process and I understand so much more about them. I want to fine-tune my early renditions of them based on my new knowledge. Going back to the beginning, then, is where my revision process begins, but I have four steps that I use after that to keep me on track. That’s what I’m sharing today.  

Big Magic

Earlier, I mentioned Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I LOVE the Big Magic moments when I write. They have happened most viscerally when I wrote the Pippin Lane Hawthorne Book Magic books. There are Irish deities, a 2000-year-old curse, and Irish and Roman history. As I dove in to research these bits, I scurried down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. Each one led me to information, a story, a fact…something that I hadn’t known and never would have thought of on my own, but which magically worked with the story. It was BIG MAGIC.  I got chills when it happened because the things I randomly discovered were so perfect. Such a great feeling!  

The Other Side of the Coin

Some people are the absolute opposite of me. They LOVE the beginning of a new process and hate revising. They find it tedious or they simply don’t want to spend the time. If you’re not writing, you’re not writing, right?Wrong! Again, it is part of the process.  Revising, more than anything else, transforms my books from okay to great. It can definitely do the same for you.It is so rewarding because this is when my books truly come alive. I look at my word choice, my sentence structure, my character development, the dialogue, and the overall plot.  I examine it all, both explicitly and intuitively, because it’s about the mechanics; but it’s also about feeling the story. Wherever you fall on the revision spectrum, I encourage you to embrace it. To make it a solid part of your process. Here’s an analogy. You may love cooking—creating in the kitchen, making something for others to enjoy. But you may hate the cleanup. Honestly, I’m right there with you. The cleanup is necessary, though, in order to be able to cook or bake again the next day. Also, the end result of having a clean kitchen is a reward in itself (for me, anyway). It’s the same with revision. The writing of a story—creating something from nothing but your imagination—is incredible. Revision is a necessary part of the overall process because it perfects the writing, getting it ready for someone else to read and thoroughly enjoy. It helps you fulfill reader expectation. And it clears your mental slate, making it possible for you to move on to your next project. I have four steps for you to help you through the revision process after you’ve finished the first write of your book. LIKE A BOSS!

The 4 Steps of Revision
  1. Step Away: Take a break after you’ve finished writing and before you start revising. This allows you time away from the characters and plot, allowing you to revisit it with fresh eyes and from a fresh perspective. You get very close to it all while you’re writing. Stepping away is like a brain cleanse. It gives you the chance to look at your story with more objectivity.
  2. Quick Read: If you take a lot of time to read through the work, you’re much more likely to miss the gaps, or miss confusing parts, inconsistencies, or other big-picture things that might need improvement. Instead of doing a leisurely read, and/or instead of diving right into line edits, read your book through pretty quickly (a weekend is good!). Here are some things to notice:
      • PLOT
        • Plot inconsistencies
        • Plot structure: Look closely at the story’s overall structure and ensure that it flows logically
        • Engagement: will it keep the reader engaged? If you get bored, so will they!
        • Check for plot holes, unnecessary scenes, or sections that feel rushed or dragged out.
        • Make sure the story’s conflict, climax, and resolution are solidly done.
        • Make sure the protagonist has undergone a significant change (Hero’s Journey)
        • Look for pacing problems

 

      •  CONSISTENCY
        • Review the story for consistency in details, settings, and timelines.
        • Look for inconsistencies with characters (behavior, traits,  appearance, etc)
        • Ensure that events and plot points remain consistent throughout the narrative

3. Dig Deeper: After the Quick Read and your big picture assessment, dig deeper. Tackle the things you noted during your Quick Read, then dig deeper by examining the following:

      • CHARACTERS
        • Character development gaps
        • Assess your characters’ motivations, personalities, and relationships.
        • Ensure that each character is distinct, believable, and serves a purpose in the story.
        • Look for opportunities to deepen each characters’ development, story arcs (remember everyone is the hero of their own journey), and conflicts.

 

      • DIALOGUE
        • Look closely at dialogue. It should be natural and serve a purpose—It must reveal character traits, conflict, internal goals/struggles, advance the plot, or build tension
        • Ensure that the dialogue is authentic and helps to engage the reader.

 

I have a free Quick Guide to Dialogue available on The WriterSpark website. The link is in the show notes. Believe me when I say that poorly written dialogue can doom a project. The second I come across dialogue that doesn’t sound or feel authentic, that’s it…I put the book down. I can’t emphasize enough how important mastering dialogue is.

 

      • PROSE
        • Pay attention to the language, style, and sentence structure.
        • Eliminate repetitive phrases
        • Tighten sentences and vary your vocabulary.
        • Look for opportunities to enhance descriptions, metaphors, and imagery to create a more vivid reading experience.

 4. Beta Readers: Only after you have revised your book should you send it to your trusted beta readers, critique partners, or share it with your writing groups. Gather their feedback and consider their suggestions for improvement. Always remember, though, that it’s YOUR story. Take or leave others’ feedback based on what you want your story to be.  

An Anecdote

I have an anecdote about that. When I was first looking for an agent, I queried so many. Agents in big firms, agents in small boutique companies, and everyone in between. As it happens, I ended up with two offers at the same time: one was from a well-known and successful agent at Trident Media Group, a huge company. The other was from an equally well-known agent who ran her own boutique company. I didn’t know what to do. I was new! I was green! I relied on the expertise of others. The advice I got from everyone around me was to go with the agent in the big firm. This is what I did. It’s hard to say that it was a mistake, because it was the first step on my journey that led me to where I am now, and I have no regrets about that. I do wonder, though, what might have happened had I made a different choice. My first agent, only after I signed her contract, informed me that she wanted me to do a major…and I do mean MAJOR…revision. She didn’t really rep mysteries much anymore; romance was her wheelhouse. She wanted me to downplay ⬇︎ the mystery elements in my book, and up ⬆︎ the romance. The book was Living the Vida Lola. How was I supposed to downplay the mystery? Lola is a PI, for goodness’ sake! I did what my agent asked, but in the process, I lost my vision for the book. It was no longer what I wanted it to be. It had lost its spark. It never sold. After a little more than a year, that agent and I parted ways. I ended up signing with her assistant, who was going out on her own with a different agency. She ended up being my agent for more than 15 years! We revised again, and I took Living the Vida Lola back to what I wanted it to be—a caper mystery, with just some bits of romantic (ie: sexy) elements (Hello Jack Callaghan and Manny Camacho!). I regained its spark. That book sold in less than three months, and the story was true to my vision for it. The takeaway for me, and I hope for you, is to remember that it’s ultimately your story. Consider the feedback, sure, but revise based on what you want your story to be. 

Revising is a multi-step process. It will probably take several rounds before your work is polished and ready for the next step, whatever that is. If you accept the process and embrace it, it can be so rewarding. It may never be your favorite part of the writing process, but it is so worth the effort.

And that’s it. I didn’t have this mapped out early on. This is how I tackle writing a book—after 32, I know that it works. Give it a try y’all. Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.

 Read my Five Hacks for Banishing Negative Self-Talk. Or Listen to the Podcast.  

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Join the WriterSpark Academy newsletter! And share with your writing besties.

Liked this post? Follow this blog to get more. 

Are you ready for the next step in your writing process? Hire me as your developmental editor and partner. Together, we will take your writing to the next level!

 Check out the WriterSpark YouTube channel! Get WriterSpark Merchandise!Want more? Read about tips for writing great characters.Follow the WriterSpark page on Facebook.

And I’m on TikTok with Lessons in Writing!

Join the WriterSpark Academy newsletter! And share with your writing besties.

Know a writer, aspiring or other, who might like this content? Share this site with them!


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