How to Revise Your Book: Overview Revision

There are different ways you should go through and edit your novel.  If you’re really committed to making something you’re proud of, then trust me.  You’re going to go through at least three revisions of your book.

One way to go through your book is reading it as if you weren’t the one who wrote it.  This is when you get to ask practical questions that will help you figure everything out.

Overview Revision:

 

Plot Arc — Do the series of events make sense?  Go through and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have events happening just to propel the plot forward, or do all the events have pretty clear cause/effect relationships?  For instance, do the police chase your character for several miles, causing untold mayhem?  Well at some point a chopper would get involved, someone would get injured, and if you look up the statistics, your guy’s probably going to jail.

 

Subplot Arcs — Make sure to resolve your subplots properly.

  • The subplots might not be as exciting as your main character’s plot, but it might be just as important.  Having only one person’s conflict in a story is boring.  Make sure you have a bit of spice in your story.  Does your secondary character fall in love with that girl he met? Does the goofy sidekick finally find the perfect joke?  These types of subplot arcs are also known as threads.  Things unrelated or loosely related to your main character’s plot/conflict that help carry us through your story.  Especially in stories that have a lot of major changes going on throughout the story (drastic character developments, high stakes, fast paced).  Threads and subplots can offer a bit of constancy, and a bit of important resolution.  So make sure your subplots are tidy!

 

Continuity — Make sure things are consistent. Characters, plot, and visuals.

  • Remember when your dashing hero got knocked out in Chapter 3? Yeah, make sure you keep track of that.  He’ll probably have dizziness, maybe a concussion, definitely a bump and a headache until at least Chapter 6ish.  I myself am always and a day losing track of who sustains what injury.  I make lists, and then I keep them next to my computer while I read through the ms.
  • Does your character’s BFF have long blond hair and is wearing a super stylish tweed jacket?  Make sure it stays that way!  Is your main character allergic to blueberries?  She better be checking with the waiter in that restaurant scene (as a person allergic to onions, so I’m constantly interrogating waitstaff on the contents of the six or seven things on the menu that catch my interest).
  • Is the city your character lives in full of twists and turns?  Do you describe it as a veritable labyrinth of Greek proportions?  Then you better give your character a map or guide, or else they’re spending three hours searching for the Secret Rendezvous Pub.

 

Character Interactions

  • If Character A and Character B are supposed to fall in love by Chapter 13, then you better build up to it properly.  If you go back and read through your story, and it seems like the romance is a bit rushed, then you probably need to do some revising.  Make sure the scenes between characters offer enough foundation for the outcomes you want them to have.

 

Completeness

  • Overall, just read through your book and check to see if everything makes sense.  All the flowery language and landscaping and outfit design you add won’t help if your story is inconsistent.  So make sure everything fits together.

 

If all else fails, read your story like a skeptic.  When the princess wants to run away, ask: “Would she really scale a tower, run across a roof, and repel off the walls?  Or would she sneak out with the waitstaff?”  When your main character is in a dead end job searching for an escape: “Why wouldn’t he just quit?  Why does he decide that escaping into an fantastical reality is his best bet?”

Lesson of the day:

Read your book.

BE A SKEPTIC.

Keep revising.

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11 thoughts on “How to Revise Your Book: Overview Revision

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  9. I am allergic to capsaicin (pepper), so I feel your pain. If I was allergic to onions or garlic, I don’t know what I’d do.

    It is so hard to be a skeptic of your own work. I had a scene where a guy impulsively kissed a girl, and the writing group thought she should call the cops on him. They were looking with modern-day eyes at my SFF story, and it took me a while to see where they were coming from. I couldn’t see that I missed setting it up “realistically” for the readers.

    I also like the idea of a Secret Rendezvous Pub. 😀

    • The worst part about onion allergy, is if you tell the waiter, he’ll bring you a ‘special menu’ of things they’ll permit you to order, but they include garlic on the list. I’m like, “Garlic does not equal onions. I adore garlic!”

      I had two secondary characters that had a flirty romance burgeoning. I finally realized that an easy enough way to confirm for the reader that something is happening (particularly something happening in subtext that people might not pick up on) is to have other characters observe it. I think what I ended up doing was that I had a couple characters talk about how ‘hey, those two characters are totally falling for each other’. But, you know, less cheesy.

      If I got to host a Secret Rendezvous Pub, I would ban onions and capsaicin from the menu (and icky things like anchovies and water chestnuts)!

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