Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Cut to the Chase: Tools for Revision

By Rochelle Melander, @WriteNowCoach

Part of The How They Do It Series

JH: Starting a revision can be can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Rochelle Melander shares tips on how and where to start your revision.

Rochelle Melander is a speaker, professional certified coach and the author of 11 books for adults, including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It) and Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity.

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Take it away Rochelle…

When my son tells a story, he begins by announcing the impact: “The worst thing just happened.”

Then he dribbles out the information, pausing between each phrase. With each pause, my heart beats faster. I imagine the possible endings. I want to shout, ”Cut to the chase!”

As a writer, we don’t want our readers to wish we’d get to the point. So between beta readers and publication, we revise.

But it’s not always easy to know what to cut. Over the years, I’ve developed a few revision tools to guide my work. When I get stuck on a scene, I pull out the tool that I think will work. I hope they can help you, too.

1. Logline.

This short pithy blurb about your story presents the main characters and the challenges they face to reach their goals. Use this as your compass. When you’re evaluating a scene, check the logline. Is the scene pointing readers in the right direction?

(Here's more on Here’s the Pitch—It’s a Hit! Crafting Your Novel's Pitch Line)

2. Outline.

productivity, writing a novel, how to write faster, the 12 week year
Rochelle Melander
Outlines function as the book’s roadmap. I often make outlines after writing my first draft to evaluate the journey my characters take. When I revise, the outline helps me see where the scene fits in the overall map of the book.

(Here's more on Are You In or Out? Crafting Outlines That Work for You)

3. Word list.

What is the emotional arc of the story? What do you want your readers to feel while reading your book? Create a list of 3-5 words that reflect this. When you review scenes, check to see if they connect with one of your emotion words. (Credit: I picked up this tip from picture book writer Pat Zietlow Miller.)

4. Questions.

The better each scene works, the better the story reads. Here are a few questions I use to get at how a scene or chapter might fit (or not) in a story:
  • Does this move the story forward?
  • Does it reveal a key element about character, emotion, plot, setting, or theme?
  • Does it flow—or do I trip over it each time you read it?
  • Does it interest me or am I tempted to skip over it?
  • Does it offer some of the flavor that makes this story unique?
(Here's more on How to Be Your Own Book Doctor)

5. Quirks

Every writer has them—their “go-to” tricks to get characters into or out of trouble, sneak in backstory, or learn secrets. We've also got phrases we use with abundance. Make a list of your quirks—and review your book for them.

Your turn: How about you? What tools do you use to cut to the chase?

About Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity

Do you struggle to:
+Find time to write and create
+Ditch distractions
+Overcome self-doubt and fear
+Believe in your strengths
+Silence the inner critic
+Stop procrastinating and write
+Focus on your work

What if you could find a simple solution to every one of these challenges?

In this book, you’ll discover YOUR perfect solutions. In our guru-obsessed culture, it’s tempting to think that if we follow the routines of successful creatives, we’ll be just as prolific as they are. But when it comes to creative productivity, a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all guide can’t help everyone. Each person has distinct needs and deserves a unique solution.

In Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination, and Increase Productivity, you’ll tackle quests to help you discover your ideal work rhythms, design a life that supports your productivity, and overcome any obstacle you face. Instead of playing someone else’s game, you get to design the game, create your own playbook, define the rewards, and reap them all! You’ll also adopt a secret identity, recruit allies, identify villains, and celebrate your epic wins. Because you’ll be using a gameful approach to shaping your creative life, taking on these quests won’t be a chore. You’ll relish investigating your life and playing with possibilities.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound | Kobo |


  1. A good to the point check for scenes!

  2. Personally, I think your son's storytelling technique is brilliant. What a way to build suspense! (but also, great article :-))