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Friday, February 24

Revision Prep: Create a Revision Plan

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

We’re down to the final days before the At-Home Revision Workshop begins. If you’ve been playing along at home, you should have already filled any plot holes or missing research in your novel, and created your editorial map. Odds are you already have a pretty good idea what general revisions you want to make in the novel, and where they fall. (And if you don't know what the manuscript needs yet, that’s okay, that’s what next month is all about).

Since we have a lot of information to cover in a short amount of time, it’s helpful to have a revision plan to guide us.

1. Make Notes on Any Revisions You Want in Each Scene

Break out your editorial map (or the manuscript itself if you didn’t make one), and scan though each scene. Look for notes or comments made on known problems or things you want to work on. If you didn’t make notes, think about the scene and mark down any weakness, concerns, or additions you’d like to make.

Things to look for:
  • Weak goal-conflict-stakes
  • Lack of character motivation
  • Sparse or missing descriptions
  • Heavy (or missing) backstory or infodumps
  • Slow or uneven pacing
  • Lack of hooks
  • Faulty logic
  • Weak or missing foreshadowing or clues
  • Areas that need more emotion
I’ve found putting these notes in a different color helps me immediately identify what I want to do with each scene. It can also be helpful to write out what needs to be revised or added in the scene summary, such as:
Just as Bob thinks he’s zombie breakfast, Sally rushes in with her gun (does it make sense she’d do this?) and shoots the zombie. It has little effect, but does distract it long enough for Bob to get a few inches out of biting range. He yells to go for the head and Sally does, killing the zombie. Bob is happy to be alive, and then panics when he remembers Jane is all alone at the office with these things on the loose (make sure his emotional shift feels logical). He has to get to her. Sally takes in the scene and starts yelling at Bob for his poor choice in weaponry and what was he thinking? (Layer in subtext that relates to their failing marriage) He’s just about to lay into her when they hear more moaning from outside. A lot more. (Could this "need to tell her off" be part of his inner arc?)
If this style doesn't appeal to you, take notes in whatever way works for you. The goal with this revision plan is to get a head start on what you know you want to revise so you're not spending time later deciding what to do.

Even small reminders of problem areas will make it much easier to find and fix these areas in the coming weeks. 

How’s everyone’s prep coming along? Are you almost ready to dive in to your revisions?

Looking for tips on planning, writing, or revising your novel? Check out one of my books on writing:  Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, your step-by-step guide to revising a novel, and the first book in my Skill Builders Series (and Amazon bestseller), Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).

A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and The Truman Award in 2011.

Janice is also the founder of Fiction University, a site dedicated to helping writers improve their craft. Her popular Foundations of Fiction series includes Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, your step-by-step guide to revising a novel, and the first book in her Skill Builders Series, the Amazon bestseller, Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).  
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  1. I'm facing a major dilemma. A month ago. I knew exactly what novel I was revising in March - my post-apocalyptic novel that had been through its 'final' beta reading. Last week, I fished revising my debut novel - an equestrian mystery published in 2013, but out of print. But perhaps its sequel, at first draft stage, is the better revision. Or my alternative history of North America is more topical - another first draft.

    Eventually, I will revise them all - even my mystery police procedural set in North Wales - 4th draft. But I'm confused as I need to prepare something. What should be my criteria with four days left?

    I now have "Revising Your Novel" so that might help for now, I hope. Many thanks.

  2. Thank you for these guidelines. Your posts ALWAYS always offer something I can use. I love Fiction U!