My tip sheet this week is on revising your work. I hope you find it helpful.
Be prepared to revise and rewrite your work several times before you send it out to an agent or publisher. When you are sure it’s the best you can do give it the five following checks:
1) Check for the overall impression. Take your time, if it’s a novel put it aside to read another day. If it’s a short story read it through slowly. Don’t make any alterations at this stage, just put notes in the margin.
- Are there any stilted or long-winded bits? Is it too wordy?
- Does the plot work?
- Are the characters realistic? Is the protagonist likeable?
- Does the story set out to do what you wanted it to do?
- Is the ending credible but unexpected?
- Are there any obvious grammar, spelling or punctuation errors?
2) Check for inconsistencies. Read your work through again and this time look out for any inconsistencies.
- Have you spelt your characters' names the same all the way through? Have you accidentally changed their hair or eye colour?
- Is your setting consistent? If your character’s apartment is on the second floor make sure you don’t forget and change it to the first or third floor later on in the story.
- Does the time span work? If your story takes place over a certain amount of time make sure you plot it out carefully. If it’s Tuesday in your story and your character is going to do something on Friday don’t say ‘in two days' time’ if it should be three.
- Is it obvious when any flashbacks start or end? Remember to leave a space before and after a flashback.
- Have you kept to the correct tense? Make sure you haven’t started writing in the past tense and then slipped to present tense, or vice-versa.
3) Check each chapter. If you’re writing a novel have another read through and check each chapter carefully, making sure you haven’t missed anything.
- Is your dialogue realistic? Have you varied the verbs of speech too much?
- Is your narrative effective and not too wordy? A bit of description and scene setting is good but don’t go overboard. Keep it concise.
- Does every scene add something to the story? No matter how well written a scene is ask yourself if it adds something to the story. Don’t pad it out.
4) Check the structure and flow. This is a very important stage so take your time with it.
- Has your story got a beginning, middle and end?
- Is there enough – but not too much – conflict?
- Do any bits sound stilted or awkward – read it aloud as it’s easier to spot then.
- Are the sentences or paragraphs too long? Don’t use overlong sentences taking up a few lines, or paragraphs that take up a whole page. Break up the text. It’s an easier read and looks more inviting to the reader.
5) Check the spelling, punctuation and grammar. Whilst an editor will forgive you a few grammar mistakes or typos if your work is littered with them it gives a poor impression and probably won’t be read. So read through again and check:
- Have you made any typos? We all do it, but a careful check over your work should pick them up.
- Have you used the correct word? A spell checker will underline your spelling mistakes but won’t recognise if you used the wrong word – ‘bare’ for example instead of ‘bear’.
- Have you used the correct punctuation? Remember to enclose dialogue inside speech marks and to put punctuation marks such as commas and question marks before the final speech marks. And to leave a space after a full stop.
If you're writing a children's story you'll find more useful tips in my book, GET WRITING: CHILDREN'S FICTION.
Available from Amazon ,Waterstones, Barnes and Noble and other book stores. If you'd like info about one of my courses, or my manuscript critique service - for both children's fiction and adult fiction - then contact me.