Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Revising Again (Before Querying Again) ... But What and How?

Although I hoped to get a positive response to my first query, I knew that a rejection was almost guaranteed.  Still, it rattled my confidence and filled me with doubt again as to my novel (which I really do love).  So, to quiet those voices of discontent, I am doing another read, and edit where needed.

But am I doing it the right way? 

There are many different kinds of revisions and edits we employ as we polish our novels, but has it ever happened to you that after spending endless hours perfecting your sentences and creating a great flow of words and phrases, you end up tossing the entire section simply because it does not fit within the story structure or framework?

I find the following helpful every time I question my approach.

The initial revision should be nothing but a review of the structure of the entire work.  Read and re-read the novel and determine, first as you go along and then after you are done and reflect on what you read:

--  Is the story smooth?  Does the plot / main character's development work?  Does it have the classic elements of a novel, however modified or unique?
--  Is the story / main character's journey interesting?  Can it carry the whole novel?  Are there any irrelevant subplots?  Or does it need subplots to add background or simply some spice?
--  Is the main character real?  If not, does he/she successfully make you suspend your disbelief?
--  Does the main character develop, grow and/or change and carry the story through?
--  Is there a central theme?  Does the novel say something?
--  Does it have a voice?
--  Is the pace right?

After the overall structure, I attend to the supporting elements of the structure:

--  Does the main character monopolize the story?  If so, should he/she?  Do the supporting characters get enough time to stay relevant?
--  Is the dialogue real and believable?
-- Are the transitions between time and place smooth enough?  How about the transitions between sentences?  Between paragraph?  Chapters?  Are they all properly "connected?"
-- Do you need every scene?  Do you need ones that are not in the story yet?

Once I am satisfied with the structural and supporting elements, I look at the paragraphs and sentences in more detail and polish them as needed. I do this as I write, but there is always lots of room for improvement.

--  Is there a proper balance of show and tell?  Is the character telling us or showing how he feels and what he is doing?
--  Are the words the right ones?  Is there too much repetition?  To many adjectives?  Not enough?
--  Does each sentence flow and make sense?
--  Are there enough action words?  Too many cliches?

Of course it is never as simple as this.  I thought I was done with all three and now I am checking again and again... just to make sure.  Writing the story took about one year, the editing and revisions just as long.

Anyone else use this approach?  Do you have a better one?


  1. Revising and editing can get frustrating, especially after the twentieth time you do it. But it is all part of the beautifying of your words and your story. And the query needs just as much attention and love. Keep studying, learning, and working hard and someone somewhere will read your words and fall in love with them too. :)

  2. I'll have to keep this list handy once I start on rewrites/revisions that I need to do, eventually--it's a great breakdown of the steps. :)

  3. I think it is a really great approach! It takes me a lot more rounds of revision than that. Idk. Maybe I just don't accomplish enough with each round.