Tuesday, March 31

Day Thirty-One: Do a Final Read Through

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy 

Stage Six: A Final Look 

Welcome to Day Thirty-One of Fiction University’s Month-Long Revision Workshop. As we enter this stage, our novels are done. Let’s pause for a moment of joyous celebration, shall we? We’ve earned it.

The final stage (and step) is to read through the manuscript one last time with an eye toward the novel as a whole. If you’re sick of your manuscript, it’s okay to take a break before doing this step. It’s not a bad idea to get a little distance to gain perspective and allow you to look at the manuscript with fresher eyes.

Today, let's read like a reader, but think like a writer.

1. Review the Storytelling

Look at the basic plotting skills, not writing skills—does this novel work? Things to ask:
  • Do I like the POV character(s)? (or do I find them interesting enough to read more about them)
  • Are their goals clear so there's narrative drive in the story?
  • Do the characters feel real?
  • Are there strong stakes to keep me interested?
  • Is there too much backstory, exposition, or description?
  • Is the overall structure holding together?
  • Does the opening grab me?
  • Does the ending want me to read more?
  • Is the premise working for me?
  • Is the pacing strong?
  • Does the plot make sense?
  • Are the plot, stakes, and goals believable?
  • Have I ever seen this plot or these characters before? (are they fresh, or have they been done?)
  • Was is predictable or did it surprise me?
  • Are all the pieces in the right places?
  • Did I spot any recurring themes?
  • Does it grab me, does it hold my attention, do I want to read on?

2. Review the Writing

Look for technical skill and word craft. Is the book well written? Things to ask:
  • Does it read well?
  • Do the sentences flow seamlessly or do any stick out or read awkwardly?
  • Are the dialog tags clear?
  • Are there any slow spots?
  • Does the world feel real and fleshed out?
  • Am I confused anywhere?
  • Are there any repetitions? Words, phrases, scenes, information, etc.
  • Do I see any passive issues, too many adverbs, overused adjectives?
  • Is there anything that jumps out at me that would stop me from reading or jar me out of the story?

3. Review it Like a Reader

Look at the manuscript as if you were a reader who just bought this book. Ask:
  • Does the first line intrigue me?
  • Does the first paragraph hook me?
  • Does the first page make me want to read more?
  • Does the first scene grab me?
  • Are there any typos?
  • Are there any unnecessary scenes?
  • Does every scene make me want to read the next scene?
  • Is there a reason to keep reading on every page?
  • Does my mind ever start to wander?
  • Is the voice consistent throughout?
  • Are the characters consistent throughout?
  • Do the stakes keep escalating?
  • Is the resolution satisfying?

After this final read through, we should A) feel good about the state of our novels, B) be turning an eye toward the next step, and C) be glad the revision is over -grin-.

If the manuscript was closer to first draft than final draft when you started, this final read might reveal the manuscript needs a little more work. If so, make your revision notes, take a break, and return to the steps as needed.

Although this officially ends the workshop, tomorrow, we’ll take a look at where you might go from here. Another revision pass, off to beta readers, beginning the submission process, or going to publication.

New to the At-Home Workshop? Find the current list of revision steps and earlier prep work on the introductory page.
Looking for tips on revising your novel? Check out my book Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, a series of self-guided workshops that help you revise your manuscript into a finished novel. Still working on your idea? Then try my just-released Planning Your Novel Workbook

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, and the upcoming Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).  

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  1. This has been a wonderful series. Thank you for putting so much hard work into these daily revision articles. I'm working on my second draft and these articles have provided infinitely useful direction.

    1. Thanks so much! I'm glad I was able to help :)

  2. Thank you very much for this workshop. I understand that it required a lot of time and effort on your part and am most appreciative that you made it available online for free. I look forward to reading your advice and insights for a long time. Thank you again for sharing it with us.

    1. Most welcome :) It was fun work, which makes it a lot easier -grin-. And it gave me things to write about for a whole month!

  3. Hi Janis, I've followed along every day (in secret), and I've filed all of the posts for the past month for future reference. Thank you for taking the time to put these and all of your posts together. :-)

    1. You're welcome :) Glad you found it helpful.

  4. Thanks Janice! A great series... Much appreciated.

  5. i was late finishing but want to say thanks so much for this course Janice

  6. i was late finishing but want to say thanks so much for this course Janice

    1. Most welcome. Doesn't matter when you finished, celebrate the finishing :)