How to form a quick revision list for your weaknesses.

I don’t know about you but I’ve seen some pretty awesome revision check lists out there. One problem. I look at a list of 101 questions and I feel totally overwhelmed after the tenth question. I go into shut down mode, start babbling, and walk away from my computer to do dishes. #notreally #butclose

But, in one week, I’m passing off my manuscript to two beta readers. I want it to be as good as I can get it. One week. Fifty chapters. I need a plan.

I’ve already done macro-edits. I’ve compared my story structure to the Blake Snyder beat sheet and passed. Not to say my betas won’t spot something I missed. But I’ve rewritten many chapters, combined others, added several, totally axed others.

And I’ve read through the whole thing on my Kindle, took notes where I could add emotion; and then went through and stretched moments. Because that is a major weakness I’m working on.

I’ve checked for basic scene structure during macro edits:

  • Goal, obstacle, conflict. Is the goal clear?
  • Could the conflict be heightened?
  • Does this chapter contributes to both the plot and character development?
  • Does the chapter end at a different emotional point than it started? If not, why?
  • Find the emotional turning point – could it be heightened?

My (known) weaknesses:  (Make a list of your weaknesses.)

  • I’m an underwriter in almost every area.
  • I assume the reader knows everything, sometimes leaving them confused.
  • I tend to skim over setting details or not incorporate the character’s emotion.
  • I tend to overuse the same senses or not use enough.
  • The character’s body language can be vague or cliché.

So here’s my quick revision list based on my weaknesses: (Create your own list based on your weaknesses.)

  • At the start, did I ground the character in the setting?
  • Could I add more specific details?
  • Do I show my character’s emotional reaction to the setting or any character description or did I just make a list?
  • Did I start and end my chapter at the right place? Is there a hook at the end?
  • Could I add more sensory details?
  • Is there enough believable build-up to an emotional moment, out burst, or turning point?
  • Did I show my character’s reaction to these moments and turning points?
  • Be more specific and original with body language.

And that’s all I’m going to do. For now. Well, truth be told, if there are any awkward sentences or typos I’ll fix them because I might not spot them later. But this isn’t fine-tuning or polishing. That will come later.

What are areas you need to revise for? As an underwriter is there anything else I should look out for?

43 Responses to How to form a quick revision list for your weaknesses.

  1. Andrea March 28, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    Great idea, Laura! I’m going to have to try this!

  2. Kris March 28, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    Great list! I’m so bad when it comes to being organized about this stuff. I love seeing the systematic approach you take! And you know I love your writing! 🙂

    • Laura March 28, 2011 at 11:15 am #

      Kris – Having learned that revision can be key, I’ve had to approach it with some sort of method or I get lost!

      Andrea – Thanks. And Good luck!

  3. Kip March 28, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Thanks for the great list! I’m working off a list as well, but I was missing a few of yours. Good luck in your revisions this week!

  4. Donna Weaver March 28, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    Love the list. One of my problems comes not failure to quit editing when I’m supposed to be proofing. I haven’t met a sentence yet I don’t want to rewrite. *sigh*

  5. christine danek March 28, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    This is great. In fact, I may print this out. I was an overwriter and now I’m an underwriter. I just can’t seem to find the right balance.

  6. Creepy Query Girl March 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    that’s a really great idea laura. And after a time I’m sure you find yourself filling things in without even being reminded- gets to be habit. I was the other way around and had to simplify setting and description.

  7. Creepy Query Girl March 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    that’s a really great idea laura. And after a time I’m sure you find yourself filling things in without even being reminded- gets to be habit. I was the other way around and had to simplify setting and description.

  8. Ansha Kotyk March 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    I need to create a list like this. I think I’m on pass 20+ on this mss. I think maybe (maybe, if I don’t overwhelm myself) I may work faster with a revision list to follow. But I’m right there with you, if the list is too long I cry and run away screaming like it was Monty Python’s rabbits.

    • Laura March 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

      Thanks for commenting everyone! I’ve had to work really hard on sticking with one check list at a time or I get distracted and work on sentences when i’m not really at that level of revisions yet. And that makes no sense if I’m just going to rewrite a scene. 🙂

  9. Paul Greci March 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    Great list, Laura!!
    I don’t have anything to add. Getting ready to hand off your WIP–that’s an exciting place to be!! Congrats!

  10. Meredith March 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    This is a great checklist. Thanks!!

  11. Jennifer Shirk March 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Yeah, I’m an underwriter too.
    I usually need to beef up emotions and internals. 🙂

  12. Becky Taylor March 28, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Great reminders! Thanks for stopping by this morning…also, I just want to make sure you received you Amazon gift card.

    Have a fantastic day!

  13. Becky Taylor March 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Great reminders! Thanks for stopping by this morning…also, I just want to make sure you received your Amazon gift card.

    Have a fantastic day!

  14. Tina Lee March 28, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    So cool that you are (nearly) ready to let this draft go to your readers! Congrats! It’s got to feel good.

  15. anne gallagher March 28, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    I saw what you said about revising sentences that you might not need because you haven’t gotten that far in the process yet…

    One of the things I always do, is go back on my previous day’s work and fix it, right away. Before I start working on this day’s work.

    Not necessarily a revision, but a line edit if you will. Fix the grammar, punctuation, what ever needs fixing. I find, it helps me keep the manuscript tidy and I can read it a lot better than in its crappy first draft stage. Also, I tell myself, once I do it, I’m really working in second draft stage, so I feel I’ve accomplished more.

  16. Lydia K March 28, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    I like how you personalize your list. That’s so important! I am doing macro edits right now so I’ll have to go back to the other stuff soon.

  17. Patti March 28, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    I was an underwriter as well then I swung over to the ovewriter side, finding a balance is key. My weakness is definitely finding the emotional side of my characters that’s what I’m doing on my latest revisions.

    Thanks for the tips.

  18. Susan Kaye Quinn March 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    I too make lists for my weaknesses (although I hadn’t thought of it that way!). I’m not always an underwriter, but I can be for setting and character introductions. So, whenever I introduce a new character or setting, I pay careful attention to adding sensory details of every flavor.

    When I’m getting ready to ship things off, I do a quick read-over, as fast as I can, not editing, almost skimming. This is so I can catch glitches in voice and story, but also so I can fall in love again with my story. 🙂

    Good luck with your critiquers!

  19. Tana Adams March 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    This is great! I always try to heighten conflict. I think it’s so crucial.

  20. Susan Sipal March 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    Laura, I love your list and how it focuses on the powerful edits rather than nitpicky stuff. I share a lot of the areas you struggle with, so may just steal your cheat-sheet! 🙂

    A few years ago, I tried to put together a encyclopedia-like list of everything I’d learned about writing and what I needed to be aware of in editing. But because it was so comprehensive, it was unwieldy and frustrating to use. Zero’ing in on the important, high-impact stuff is so much better!

  21. Jenny Lundquist March 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    I love this list! Those long lists overwhelm me too. I love the idea of making a revision list based on my weaknesses. One of mine, I’m finding out this week, is basic story logic stuff. If my mc really needs to talk to her friend and she takes off for the mall (or wherever), how did she know her friend was going to be there? Small connecting stuff like that. Good luck with submitting to your beta readers!

  22. Tere Kirkland March 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    This is a great list! I have similar weaknesses, so I’ll have to come back to this when I’m editing.


  23. Sherrie Petersen March 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    You are so organized! This list is great.

  24. Elle Strauss March 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    Those lists also overwhelm me, so your idea to write our own list based on our weaknesses is a great idea!

  25. Lisa Green March 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    It does not surprise me for some reason that we have very similar weaknesses. I think spotting those is half the battle. ;D As to underwriting? Just finding visually those passages that look like a block of too much dialogue (for example) then going in and thinking in terms of set direction to add interaction with world helps a bit. See if any questions come up, like I would have liked to have seen that happen! And add it. IDK it’s all of the top of my head! LOL You’ll do fantastic! I mean this is YOU I’m talking to.

  26. Julie Musil March 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    Laura, your posts are always amazing! I think you just about covered it. One thing I always look for is the subtle build up of emotion. Not the first page *bam* of emotion, but the crescendo type, you know?

    • Laura March 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

      Everyone – thank you so much. I’m totally down for the count today as in sick. Now I know why I was grumpy and tired all weekend. I’ll be around on Wed.! Thanks! So much for my revision plans this week! 😉

  27. Angela Felsted March 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    I think the way you analyze your writing is amazing, and I bet it really shows in your work. Someday I hope to read one of your novels. 🙂

  28. Misha March 28, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    To be honest, I don’t even want to consider revisions yet. First, I want to edit and get rid of all the bad habits that sneak in. Then I might consider serious revisions.


    You won an award at my blog.

  29. MG Higgins March 28, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    Excellent! Your ability to analyze your own writing is really commendable. I have a feeling your beta readers aren’t going to have much to criticize.

  30. Karen Lange March 28, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Congrats on your progress! Love the breakdown here. Great info, as always! 🙂

  31. Juliana Brandt March 28, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    Thanks for this post, Laura! I’ve been stuck on how to continue editing and this definitely helps.

  32. anne gallagher March 29, 2011 at 12:30 am #

    I forgot to tell you, I have an award for you on my blog too. Hope you feel better.

  33. Margo March 29, 2011 at 3:13 am #

    Brilliant! Make a list of my writing weaknesses- ouch – do I have to??? Yes yes humbling but of course it will help! I know one of my weaknesses is too much description of movement and not enough interior thought.

    that must be why this bullet really leaped at me: “Is there enough believable build-up to an emotional moment, out burst, or turning point?”

  34. Amie Kaufman March 29, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    I’m doing this right now, as I finish revising my first act to send it through to you. I’m focusing on avoiding White Room Syndrome and passive verbs. I’ll beat them yet!

  35. Terri Tffany March 29, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    I’m like you. I printed off all these great lists to use and became overwhelmed with them. So I am working through my revisions as best as I can!

  36. Leigh Moore March 29, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    wow. I’m an underwriter, too, and this is a fantastic checklist. Thanks, Laura!!! :o) <3

  37. Orlando Ramos March 29, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

    I’m new to your blog, just found it today through Jami Gold on twitter.

    I love the list. I need something like this. The one thing I would need is a structure guide to let me know when I’m accomplishing each goal. I loved it.

    • Laura March 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

      Thanks everyone! I thought I was being kind of selfish with this post too. It was to help keep me focused during the week. Glad it could help!

  38. angela ackerman March 29, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    You are so organized! I think it really helps to know our weaknesses, and instead of pretending they don’t exists, embrace them. Time and knowledge will help turn weaknesses into strengths. 🙂

    Angela @ The Bookshelf muse

  39. Maureen Crisp April 3, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    Hi Laura, I meant to comment ages ago on this post It is a great list and was very timely for me as I was racing to polish a MS before going to a conference. Now Back from mind blowing conference and saw your comment on my blog so this is a thanks thanks thanks for your insight and wisdom!

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