2020,  Fiction,  Revising,  The Writing Life,  Writing,  writing tips

Revisions: How Do You Know When You’re Done?

Here we are. Another week of staying at home. With everyone. It isn’t always easy to stay focused. It isn’t easy to ignore distractions. But here is the thing. If you get something done, it’s better than nothing. There are a lot of demands on your energy. The key is to keep moving. Do a little. Try some free writing. Or describe in a journal how you are feeling. Everything counts.

Recently, I took part in an excellent online workshop with prolific author Kate Messner through the SCBWI. If you aren’t already a member, you might want to check out their online offerings. Considering the place I am in my revisions of Anywhere But Here, it was perfect timing. Kate spoke about getting to the core of what your story is about, the balance between plot and character, raising the stakes, and choosing your point of view. It was all incredibly helpful.

The activity I want to share with you todady is called a “Big Picture Story Chart.” If you have revised and revised and revised and aren’t sure if you’re finished, this chart will be extremely helpful. On the left side, you list everything that is important in your story. Characters. Objects. Recurring issues. Themes. Threads. That sort of thing. Across the top of your chart you list every chapter. Now the fun begins. Go through your manuscript, chapter by chapter and check off each time the item on the left is represented. This is an amazing way to find plot holes and missing threads, both of which were huge issues in the first ever manuscript I sent in for publication. I got lucky, and the publisher decided he was willing to work with me to “fix” all the flaws to make the work publishable. But I don’t think you want to count on that.

After you have gone through several revisions of your manuscript, focusing on everything from character arcs, plot arcs, themes etc. you may want to do one final check using the above-mentioned chart. If everything appears to be in place, and you’re satisfied you haven’t missed anything, you may be ready to send it to your agent or editor. The editor will have one less job to do, once you have taken this final step to see that everything is tight.


Here’s mine. I’ve just started
Apparently it’s called the Big Picture chart for a reason. Sigh. Better get a move on!

Remember, you don’t always need a large chunk of time. Writing in the spaces between activities will also add up.

To Do

  1. Set a timer. If you don’t remember where you are at in your manuscript or if you’re not sure what to write about, write for fifteen minutes on any topic. Set the timer. It all counts and may wake up the muse.
  2. Use a prompt. Several authors are posting Twitter writing prompts for online learning with the hashtag #PromptMyStory. You could check these out to help get your words flowing.
  3. Mentor Texts. Read how your favourite authors start their novels. Highlight first sentences in five of your favourite novels. Any age range. Doesn’t have to be the age for which you are writing.

Happy writing…and revising!

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