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 well 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 them 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?
- http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/revising-drafts , http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/word-choice , http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/reorganizing-drafts