Revision 2: Early Stages

Other segments you might enjoy Part one, Part three.

The Big Picture

The first read through (I recommend using a reader at each stage) is a time for getting reacquainted with your plot, subplots. To create a clean tree-151444well organized work, use your premise or log line as a compass point and let it guide you in one direction. This may also be the time to sketch out a synopsis if you haven’t already, because in this stage you are looking at the big picture and overall foundation.

Start from page one, looking for anything that doesn’t move the story forward or strays from your premise or log line. Don’t be afraid to cut away what doesn’t fit. Create a working copy if you like, and cut + paste all sections/chapters/scenes from it that don’t fit, placing them into a folder for lost scenes.

This leaves holes that we’ll deal with later.

Is the Foundation Sound

If there are issues with pacing, or flow, this would be the time to break the story down into manageable sections/chapters/scenes that can easily be rearranged. The goal here is to recreate your story structure and put it in the best possible light, building increased tension that can’t be ignored.

As you know already, publishers, agents, and book reviewers have expectations. Word counts must fall within an acceptable range and a general framework must be followed. I use the three-act structure as a guideline. At one quarter (this may vary) the inciting incident occurs, at the half way point there is some kind of story twist, and three-quarters the show-down, and afterward is reserved to wrap up all loose ends. If you know what the recommending word count is for your genre, you can break it into sections giving you an idea of what you need to do within to align your story to meet these expectations.

Fill the Holes, Flesh Out Characters, Make Settings Pop

Identify all the gaping plot and subplot holes, and make notes on how to fill daisies-676368_1920them in or tie them up. But you’re not done yet. You’ve gotten to know your characters very well over all those read-throughs. Time to flesh them out, make sure each one has an arc, an agenda/goal, and are as unique as possible. Click for more: Tags, Motivation, etc.

Same goes for the settings. They come alive through your characters, interacting with or reacting to their senses. As Karen sniffs the air and she find lilacs. Joe’s feet slip on the gravel underfoot. Max’s nose seals closed from the cold crisp air. A group of teenagers shout over the roar of ocean waves.

I focus on one character for each read through. It bumps up the tension with each round. But that’s me and you may use another technique.

Writers: What do you recommend to bump it up?

Book Bloggers: If you could say anything to writers at this stage, What would it be?

Gleaned from:

37 responses to “Revision 2: Early Stages

  1. Very helpful Anna. Thank you.

  2. ooohhh, love your new look, Anna!! πŸ™‚ and I just liked your FB page, I love seeing my friends’ post in my stream πŸ™‚

  3. You always have such wonderful advice Anna!
    I wish you well in all of your writing endeavors!!

  4. Great tips, Anna! This stage is lots of work.

  5. Share your work with trusted readers. You don’t have to make every change they suggest, and keep in mind that it’s only one person’s opinion. I like your tips about the characters interacting with their environment.

    • Oh, I do, but that’s done as next to last step. I don’t expect my readers to look at my work unless it’s a polished as I can make it.

      I don’t want them to suffer any more than they have to. πŸ™‚

  6. Thanks for stopping by my blog during the A to Z Challenge. I’ve added your blog to my feedly.

  7. I use #Mary Burton’s check list ( from a writer’s conference ( she gave a full day workshop. She has six stages and calls it her “One Draft At a Time” check list. It has helped me hone my work immensley and yours seems to be very close to it. Great minds and all! Lisa, co-host AtoZ 2015, @

  8. The tree silhouette is perfect for the framework–who knows what’s inside, but the shape has my attention. Well done.

  9. Fantastic tips. I usually make a graph for the pacing so I can see the ups and downs are balanced, and it’s rising to the climax so all things collide at the same time.

  10. Wonderful tips as always Anna!

  11. I like the four act structure. 25% 1st plot point; 50% Midpoint shift; 75% 2nd plot point; then resolution, with two pinch points and an all is lost moment in between. Funny how different everyone’s process is. Great post, Anna.

  12. Excellent advice! It has to be hard on a writer to cut scenes that don’t really add to the plot, but I appreciate it as a reader.

  13. More great tips. Narrowing the focus is a great way to do it–because otherwise I get too distracted.

  14. Great tips Anna. What I’ve realized myself and relearned in today’s IndieRecon is to check for boring scenes. If the particular scene is key to the plot, help drive it, suppose to have tension but is the opposite, then you might need to ask yourself what ‘drama’ or ‘twist’ you can add to it.

  15. It all sounds so easy when you explain it this way. Trouble is, when I sit down to decide how I’m going to actually do these things, my muse runs away!

  16. jenniferbielman

    Great tips. I find it hard to cut anything from my writing. lol.

  17. Pingback: Revision 3: Your Special Touch | Elements of Writing

  18. Pingback: Revision I: Where to Begin | Elements of Writing

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