September 14, 2011

revision plan

Now that most of my beta-readers are getting back to me on the steampunk project, I can start working on a revision plan. I’ve never done a revision plan before, but a suspect that it works a lot like a plot outline does for a story. I have gotten excellent feedback from everyone so far. I still have a few more friends with the manuscript, and I hope they enjoy the story as much as the others.

One thing is clear: I’m no expert at characterization. I’m somewhere between novice and advanced beginner. My goal is to become, at bare minimum, competent. So as a major part of my revision plan, I’ll focus on further characterization of secondary characters.

Most of the revision list has to do with specific scenes or general atmospheric things, generated completely on beta-readers’ comments. However, I know that there are things that I should look for and fix regardless of what story I’m working on. The most logical path of revision starts with the big picture, moves in to a chapter by chapter, scene by scene examination, and then finishes off with sentence structure, grammar, and spelling—basic proofreading.

Here is a comprehensive list of things that I think should be examined, and in the order they should be examined:

Big picture stuff:
Is the plot coherent? Does each plot event effectively transition into the next?
Are there any plot holes? Are there pieces of the story that don’t make sense in the grand scheme of things?
Are there scenes that do nothing to advance characterization, theme, plot? Can they be deleted or reworked?
Do the main character and the major secondary characters have clear character arcs? Does their perspective on life change over the course of the story?
Does each character impact the plot in some way?
Do two or more characters share the same purpose? Can they be combined?

Closer examination:
Does the dialogue sound natural? Does it advance the plot?
Is the prose and dialogue repetitive? Can I remove repetitive sections without losing integrity?
Do I point out the obvious? If I were a reader, could I infer what’s being said without having the point of the narrative written out for me?
Are there any passages that I find boring or tedious?
Are descriptions and information consistent throughout the narrative? Are my facts straight?

Sentence level analysis:
Can I use more direct language? Can adverbs and adjectives be removed or combined with stronger nouns and verbs? Do I use passive voice too often?
Can I reduce the wordcount of each sentence by at least one word without losing its integrity?
Does each sentence make sense? Is the intended meaning clear?
Did I use all five senses per page of description?
Do I use the same words in close proximity?
Have I used clichéd phrases?
Are the sentence structures varied? Do I have too many long, wordy sentences or too many short, punchy sentences in a row? How does each sentence read? Does the writing have a natural, spoken flow?
Is the tense consistent?
Grammar check.
Spelling check.

If you have anything to add, please say so in the comments, and I’ll update the list!


  1. For the love of gingerbread and chocolate chip cookies...this revisionn plan is really comprehensive. As I've never used a revision plan before (revision pantser), I hope it's okay if I bookmark this for future reference.

  2. I'm with Angela, this is great. I've only had one ms to revise and I mucked it up. This post should help me not do the same to my second :-)

  3. Thanks Angela and Sarah! I hope it works well for both of you in the future. For that matter, I hope it works for me ^_^'
    I also screwed up the revision of my first novel, and I really don't want that to happen again!

  4. Great list! And brilliant to hit up big picture first--so many people polish the prose before it's really time to do so :)

  5. Hello Brooke, you have an award over at my blog.