Tuesday, June 2, 2009


The very thought of sitting down to revise a story has all the appeal of doing my own income tax.

Before rushing into a revision, I thought I would read up on the subject in several books I borrowed from the SRW library. And then, I was going to pass on to you any good hints I found.

However, I have a problem. I procrastinated until last night. Then, I had a hot flash and my glasses fogged up. So, I took them off and put them somewhere. I can’t find them until I find them because I can’t see to see where they are. I can’t read what I am writing so please forgive all the hideous and horrible errors.

But, ever resourceful, I found a magnifying glass and read the relevant chapters. I found a black pen and made notes in very BIG writing. I found some good stuff so here goes:
Leigh Michaels, in her book On Writing Romance, has some really good ideas and questions to ask ourselves. In fact, it is a very useful book in total.

First How and then What.

You have finished the manuscript and revision is about to get under way. Michael’s says give yourself a break. Editing and writing are two very different tasks. Don’t try to do both at the same time.

Give yourself a break between writing and editing. The longer you leave it, the better able you will be to see it as the reader sees it. (Boy, am I in luck. It has been two years).

Edit on hard copy.

Read your manuscript through quickly. Don’t edit anything. No pens allowed. The idea is to see any holes in it.

Now read difficult parts aloud and tape them. This will give you an idea of your pacing. It also gives you an idea of quickly your reader may go to sleep.

Take out some colored markers and use a different color to mark: dialogue, narration, introspection, attribution and description. You will be able to see how well balanced your story is. For example, if there is a lot of dialogue in the first part but not much toward the end, you may want to have another go.

Set aside a block of time so that you revise in just a few sittings. You will be better able to remember details.

Start with your characters:

Is there a good reason for all their actions?
What are their goals, hangups, history?
Do the actions and emotions still make sense?
Is their conflict real or is it just a misunderstanding? Do they have enough at stake?
Would you want your heroine for a friend? Would you want marry the hero? Are they out of balance?
Have you shown, rather than told, their story?
Do they have a good reason for their conflict?
Can you say, in one sentence, why the hero and heroine need each other?
Do they really have something to talk about? Do they argue more than they talk?
If so, why wouldn’t they find someone else?
Have you shown both sides of your characters: the good and the bad?
How much does the reader know about what the character is thinking?
Do the readers get into the action, the emotions and listen to the arguments?
Do you have too many characters? Do they all need to be named?
Can the reader easily see the development of the relationship?
Can the reader see the attraction between hero and heroine?
Have you kept up the sexual tension throughout?
Do they bring about their own solution without interference from other characters?

Personally, I get very annoyed as a reader if the writer has written inaccurately about a place I know. A book I am reading currently describe the train ride from London to Paris through the Channel under the English Channel. He says the walls are brightly lit when in reality, there isn’t any light at all. He says the scenery is breathtaking. Calais is only breathtaking if you have asthma. The rest of the ride isn’t exactly attractive, much less breathtaking. It is better to ditch the description of a place you have never seen.

I am not exactly enthusiastic about revision, but Michael’s book is certainly going to make it much easier.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Connie, I don't like revisions, either, and that's what I'm doing with my current wip.

You have some good things to check on your list so thank you for that.

Hope you find your glasses, soon.

Nayuleska said...

Revisions - on them now. They are actually more enjoyable than I thought they'd be. Quite frustrating at times, but worth it.

Silver James said...

Take out some colored markers and use a different color to mark: dialogue, narration, introspection, attribution and description. You will be able to see how well balanced your story is. For example, if there is a lot of dialogue in the first part but not much toward the end, you may want to have another go.Now why hadn't I thought of this before? What a great idea. I'm in a really tough...renovation. It isn't exactly a rewrite as the whole story is there and I'm not changing it significatly. It isn't a revision because I'm chopping out whole chapters and sections and moving them. So...renovation is the best term I can come up with. When I'm done, I am definitely going to color code like this! Thanks!

Karyn Good said...

Revising is a challenge. I'm finding there are parts I enjoy and parts I struggle through. Thanks for the colored pens tip and the checklist of questions. I'll keep them in mind as I plug away.

All very helpful. Thanks Connie.

connie said...

Hi Anita
First, thanks for help above and beyond.
There are some terrific suggestions in Michael's book. I will return it to the library as soon as I can.
After tearing the green house apart and raking the garden again I gave up. Husband came home about midnight and asked why my glasses were on the scale in the bathroom.
I have no idea.
Thanks again
p.s. since I couldn't see the words on the screen to post my blog, I asked Anita to do it for me.

connie said...

Hello Yunaleska,
Yes, they are worth it and I hope I will find them more enjoyable than I thought too.
Good luck and don't forget the part where you be good to yourself and take a rest.

connie said...

Hi Silver James,
Yes, coloured pencils are a terrific idea. As IU said, Michael's book is a treasure chest of good questions and good ideas. There is more which I hope to fit into my next blog.
Not only is the idea useful, it will allow me to make use of the eleventy-seven coloured markers the kids left behind

Jana Richards said...

Hi Connie,
I sympathize about the glasses and totally understand. I'm so near-sighted I can't find my way out of bed without mine.

I know revisions will make my story better but that doesn't mean they're easy and it doesn't mean I don't want to chuck the whole lot against the wall occassionally. Good check list from Leigh Michaels. Sounds like a really useful book from her.

Good luck on your continuing revision journey.


connie said...

Hi Karen,
First, I didn't get to read your blog in time to comment but I really found it useful. Thanks.
If you need a quarter of a million coloured pencils, apply here.
Hope revision is more enjoyable than frustrating for you.

connie said...


Janet said...

No need to apologize - you were about an hour past when my brain works properly on weeknights (and I couldn't think to stay awake to figure out file differences). I'm glad Anita could help you :)

Great post - and I concur, Leigh Michaels' book is a bevy of valuable information for the romance writer. I think I've taken it out of the SRW library 4 or 5 times - depending on what I'm doing with a manuscript, I take away different ideas and suggestions.

Glad you found your glasses - might I suggest a cord so they are forever handy?

connie said...

Hi Jana,
My revulsion for revisions isn't as bad as I make it out to be, but I am really happy I found Leigh Michael's book.
'The Complete Guide to Editing Your Fiction' by Michael Seidman, 'Self Editing for Fiction Writers' by Renni Browne and Dave King and "Writing Romance' by Vanessa Grant also have some very good check lists. More on them next time

connie said...

I had a cord but the kids were horrified, so I put it away - somewhere.
I have printed out Hayley's notes and looked at my own (I was not asleep, I was merely resting my eyes);) So, now, provided I don't lose my glasses again, I will be able to post blogs like a pro.
I look forward to getting my hands on the library boxes in the Fall to see what other gems I can find.

Helena said...

You guys are so funny. Not your post, Connie. (It's very useful and full of ideas that hadn't occurred to me.) Well, yes, I did have to laugh at your opening, not to be unkind because I know that trying to function without glasses is very ... well, trying.

I read the comments pell-mell one after another (got home from the city late afternoon). Made me think of Chip 'n Dale! Don't worry, lots of good points made. I enjoyed the little thread of the glasses saga that wound its way through today's post/comments.

I'm going to need all the help I can get to revise my almost-finished first draft. So much appreciated, Connie.