I've spent the past week revising my novel Where Are Boys From, Uranus? and I've found several helpful tools for revising.

1. Scene Goals, Setbacks, and Raised Stakes

(Did you just say steak?)

I double check my plot format and make sure the scenes all have a purpose. At the Willamette Writer's Conference last year Bob Dugoni suggested each scene needs to have a goal. A purpose for the scene. Then something needs to get in the way--a Setback. Always crank up the tension. And then that Setback will somehow raise the stakes to keep readers interested.
And if your scene doesn't contribute to the main plot, cut it!

I make up little flashcards for each scene. And when I don't have some type of tension, that's when the story drags.

2. Outline

Next I double check the entire novel format. Save the Cat has a great beat sheet for how your novel should run and what needs to happen when (a break down of the beat sheet is on that link back there).

Jessica Paige Morrell's book Thanks, But This Isn't For Us also goes through a helpful way to gauge this. She breaks the storyline out into 3 Acts. The rest of her book is also helpful. She breaks down how to write great opening scenes, adding suspense, creating memorable characters, and dialogue, among other things.

Another helpful website for plotting is Janice Hardy's. She goes into detail on what should happen when. Part one is here. And Part two is here.

3. Read it!

Jessica Page Morrell also recommends printing out your entire novel, secluding yourself, and reading it OUTLOUD. This is extremely helpful because you catch things differently than you do while staring at a computer screen. It also helps make sure your dialogue is realistic and your sentences flow, and to make sure you don't repeat words.

I can't seclude myself--with two kids? Not a chance. But I still sit with them and read a chapter at a time aloud.

Agent Weronika Janczuk gave a great workshop at recently on Compactness. Her first rule is to never waste a word (aka line edit like a banshee). Her suggestions were extremely helpful. The link for Weronika's suggestions is here.

4. Pass It Out

Finally, after I've checked everything I can and I've done Spell Check/Grammer in my word processor, I find a few friends whose opinions I trust and who I know will be completely honest and helpful, and I ask them to read it for me. I can't even tell you how valuable peer critique is! Go to writing conferences, join SCBWI, make writer friends somehow so you can swap and give each other feedback. All of my critique buddies are online.

5. Take a Break

This is the hardest one for me because I'm so impatient! Stephen King says to take off six months or something like that, but I just have the hardest time doing that because I want it out there! Try for a month, at least. Give your brain some rest and look at your novel with fresh eyes before sending it out. I've made the mistake of rushing into things and blown my chances with agents because of it.

While you're breaking, start a different project. Research agents you want to query. Work on your query letter. Write your synopsis. Bake cookies. Whatever!


Beth Stilborn said...

Such excellent advice, Cortney! Thank you. And I'm going to look for "Thanks, But This isn't for Us". It sounds as though it should be required reading for any aspiring author.

Jenny Sulpizio said...

GREAT advice and thanks for posting it! I'm a campaigner now following you back and looking forward to learning more.

Blessings! :)

Cortney Pearson said...

Thanks, you guys! And Jenny, thanks for the follow.

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