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5 Must Checks in Book Revisions

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I’m in the middle of revisions right now for the third book in my Dusty Deals Mystery series.  I’m not actually done with the book yet, but I took a break from writing this novel to go back and revise a few things that were bugging me. I do this at times if something major isn’t working out and is causing me writer’s block. I have been having some major writer’s block or at least stumbling blocks on this book.

Since I was in the middle of the revision process, I thought I’d share 5 must check items when revising your novel.

1.) Characters’ Voice: I am really big on character and usually I do a pretty comprehensive analysis of my major characters before even starting to write a novel, but sometimes that character profile doesn’t work as I’d thought it would, or sometimes I know upfront that I’m going to have to do some writing before I really understand what I need from a character.

There are a few parts of character voice you want to look at when revising your book. The first and probably easiest is key words and phrases that fit the character. In my Dusty Deals series I have a recurring character who is a giant jazz fan. She goes all out, dressing in the time period and using phrases from the time. During revision, I go back and review her dialogue to make sure I sprinkle in a few of those jazz terms.

I don’t recommend over doing this, but it is an easy way to make one or two characters sound different from everyone else.

The other part of character voice that I look at when revising is attitude. By this I mean, is he laid back or up tight? Does he argue easily or have a long fuse? Does he talk a lot or not much at all?

Characters, like people, are all different. In the book I’m working on now, my main character’s brother appears for the first time. When I started writing I had one idea of what he would be… arrogant. But as I continued writing, I realized this was too obvious and over the top. He needed something different, something that would still annoy my protagonist, but not create an all out war.

I am taking him from arrogant to surfer dude, attitude wise. This doesn’t mean I changed what he did or loved or what he looked like or his motivations for the things he did. It means I changed his core personality, how he reacts to things.

So, must check number one is character voice, making them unique and real.

2.) Motivation Reaction Units. I did a piece on Motivation Reaction Units here at the How To Write Shop a while back. I’m listing it as a much check during revisions because getting your motivation and reactions out of order is a major cause of things just not reading right. If you are getting that funny feeling that something is off, check your motivation reaction units.

3.) Scene and Chapter Ending Lines. At the end of scenes and chapters is when a reader is most likely to set your book down and not pick it up again. Because of that you want to always give them a reason to keep reading. The best way to do this is to end every scene at a disaster or a dilemma. Yes, every scene and chapter. I know this can be hard. I know sometimes you want to end a scene with things tied up, but don’t. At least not really. If you must end a scene where the character thinks all is well, also make sure the READER knows it isn’t. Use hints and subtext to let the reader know “Uh oh, she may think this problem is resolved, but I know better…”

4.) Every Scene Needs Goal and Conflict. Or it isn’t a scene. And if longer than a hundred words or so it is going to be boring. If your book is dragging, check – does one character in this scene have a goal? Is someone or something working against them getting that goal? If not, rework or dump the scene.

5.) Every Scene Needs to Tie Back to the Story Goal. Let’s say you have this fun scene where your character goes to the beach and is attacked by cotton candy wielding preschoolers. The character has a goal – to get to the beach. And there is conflict in the way of those preschoolers getting in his way, but if his need to get to the beach isn’t tied to the overall story/doesn’t move the plot along, the scene needs to go. Dump it or change it so it moves the plot/shows the character working toward the overall story goal. (Or a smaller goal that is tied to the overall story goal.) (Can also be tied to a subplot, but subplot should support overall story in some way so the main point holds.)

There you have my top five must checks during revision. Do you have some of your own?

Lori Devoti is the multi-published author of romantic comedy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She also writes the Dusty Deals Mystery series under the pen name Rae Davies. Look for her workshops at Write by the Lake (DCS University of Wisconsin), at various conferences, and here at the How To Write Shop. For more information, visit her web site. Find her on Google +

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  1. Link Feast For Writers, vol. 28 | Reetta Raitanen's Blog - [...] 5 Must Checks in Book Revisions by Lori Devoti [...]
  2. Top Picks Thursday 11-08-2012 « The Author Chronicles - [...] Gray-Grant shows how to charge up your writing with vibrant verbs, while Lori Devoti lists 5 “must checks” during …

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