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Chapter 7: The Draft: Revising & Polishing

Once the Draft is Done: Revising

Melissa Ford Lucken

When revising a novel, there are several important factors to consider to ensure that your story is polished, cohesive, and engaging. Each novel’s revision process will be unique. Trust your intuition and select the one of two approaches that “feel” like the best fit for your and your work.

Story structure:

Assess the overall structure of your novel, including the pacing, plot progression, and the arrangement of scenes and chapters. Ensure that the story flows smoothly and that each element serves the overarching narrative.

Here are some indicators to help you evaluate the strength of your structure:

Clear Goal or Conflict: A strong plot revolves around a clear and compelling goal or conflict that drives the story forward. Identify the primary objective or challenge that the protagonist must overcome. If your plot lacks a distinct goal or conflict, it may feel aimless or lacking in direction.

Rising Tension and Conflict: A strong plot builds tension and conflict progressively throughout the story. Assess whether the stakes are consistently raised, creating obstacles and challenges for the protagonist. Look for moments of heightened suspense, dramatic twists, or unexpected turns that keep readers engaged and eager to know what happens next.

Scene Structure: Scenes should create tension. Evaluate the structure of each individual scene to determine if the goal is clear and the conflict creates new consequences. Each event and action should have a logical and meaningful impact on subsequent events. Ensure that the plot unfolds naturally and organically, with each development flowing logically from the previous one.

Engaging Subplots: Subplots can add depth and complexity to a novel’s plot. Assess whether your subplots complement and enhance the main plot. Look for subplots that contribute to character development, thematic exploration, or provide additional layers of tension and conflict. Be cautious not to include subplots that distract from or overshadow the main narrative.

Character development:

Evaluate the depth and consistency of your characters. Examine their motivations, conflicts, and growth throughout the story.

Ensure that their actions and decisions are believable and aligned with their personalities and arcs. Passive or reactive characters can weaken the plot’s impact. Assess whether your protagonist possesses agency and drives the plot forward through their choices and actions.

Review the dialogue in your novel. Make sure it is natural, authentic, and advances the plot or reveals character traits. Consider the rhythm, tone, and voice of each character, aiming for distinctive and engaging dialogue that reflects their individuality.

Setting and description:

Evaluate how you depict the settings in your novel. Provide enough detail to immerse readers in the world you’ve created, but avoid overwhelming them with excessive descriptions. Use sensory details to evoke emotions and enhance the reader’s experience.

Style:

Consistency and continuity: Scrutinize your novel for inconsistencies in plot, characterization, timeline, and any other elements. Ensure that details remain consistent throughout the story, and address any logical or factual errors.

Theme and symbolism: Reflect on the underlying themes and symbolism in your novel. Assess whether they are effectively communicated and resonate with the story and characters. Enhance the thematic elements to add depth and meaning to your narrative.

Voice and style: Consider the overall voice and style of your writing. Ensure that they are consistent and appropriate for your target audience and genre. Fine-tune your prose to create a compelling and engaging reading experience.

Show, don’t tell: Identify areas where you can enhance the “showing” of actions, emotions, and scenes rather than simply “telling” them. Use vivid descriptions, actions, and dialogue to bring the story to life and allow readers to experience it firsthand.

Before or while revising you may want to seek feedback from trusted beta readers or critique partners. Consider their perspectives and suggestions, and use their insights to identify areas that may need improvement. Use feedback as a valuable tool to refine and enhance your novel.

Once you’ve addressed the larger structural and narrative elements, focus on editing and proofreading for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. Pay attention to the smaller details to ensure a polished final product.

Revising a novel often requires multiple rounds of revision. Consider revisiting your manuscript multiple times, each time focusing on specific elements or aspects mentioned above, to ensure a thorough and comprehensive revision process. Remember, the revision process is an opportunity to strengthen your novel and elevate it to its fullest potential. Embrace the revisions as an integral part of the writing journey, allowing your story to evolve and shine.

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