Monday, December 14, 2009

Revision Hints from the '08 SBA Writer's Conference

Revison Tactics

I got these hints from the 2008 SBA writers conference. I find them very helpful. I hope you will too.

Get Ready
Print out a fresh hard copy.
Put it in a binder.
Make a title page.
Write a great blurb (or put the name of an author you love and pretend you are reading their book.)

Reading your Revision
Read like a reader.
Take minimal notes.
Fight the urge to edit

However if you Must edit, here are five quick editing symbols you can use:
1. Smiley face: Like it a lot
2. Check mark: Story Dragging
3. ( ): Clunk writing. Metaphors they don't work. Sentences that don't make sense.
4. O : Material missing.... Transition point? Explanation?
5. ? : What was I thinking? I am Confused!

When you finish the first read, it is time for analysis:
Does my story make sense?
Do the Characters act like real people?
Is the setting a character in my story ? (The soul of a place comes from the person who is experiencing the place. What about the place does the protagonist not understand. What are three details only your protagonist can see)

Helpful thing to do: (send your character forward in time one year from the time the story ends. How do they see it now)

The Characters
The voice of the author comes from the characters. How do they express themselves.

At every significant juncture in the story look at the viewpoint of every character and let them make thee best move they can from his or her point of view.

Are there any coincidences that HELP the lead character? This is not generally a good idea. Coincidence should HURT the lead character.

Are the stakes high enough? Is "Death" overhanging. Either Physical, professional or psychological or emotional Death?

Societal stakes: Does what happens to the character affect the people around him?

Do the scenes flow or are they choppy?

Does the story feel organic?
Are the transitions clear?
Helpful thing to do: Create an actual physical calendar. Put in the plot points.

Do my main characters "jump off the page"?
Write simple stories with complex characters. The key to originality in fiction is not the plot, but the characters.

Follow the character's passion. What does he yearn for?

Helpful thing to do: Create an off camera scene. Put the character in an uncomfortable place. See what she/he does

Is there enough "worry fodder"? We want to care about these people.

At what point could a busy editor put my book aside and not come back to it?

"A great story is life with the dull parts taken out."

Write a summary (2000-3000 words.) Change what you need to make it compelling.
Now you are ready for the second draft. Rewrite according to the new story.

Helpful thing to do: Go to a bookstore and read all of Dean Koontz's opening paragraphs. I would add to that: Read the opening of Ellen Raskin's "The Westing Game." I went to Barnes and Noble and spent an hour reading opening pages. I do this for both picture books and novels


  1. This is great advice. I go to the bookstores and read the latest pb to get an idea of how they pull me in. Thanks.

  2. Fabulous advice...thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Thanks so much Sue, I copied and saved your advise.


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