Revise from Most Problematic to Least

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Hello lovelies and welcome back to the blog.

We’ve been talking about revisions and how to get through your draft process. A few weeks ago, I gave you an overview of how to work through a revision in a way that makes sense so that you are not working against yourself the whole time. I gave you a free revision checklist and if you have not picked that up yet go ahead and grab that now. We are going to go in depth this week into the third item on that checklist which is to work from most problematic to least.


Most Problematic

Structural changes are going to be really big. If you are changing the plot device you are using, or if you are making big changes to your character arc, you’ll want to make those changes first. If it involves traveling to a different place, or having something happen in a timeline, you need to get that all straight before you make some of the more minor changes in your book because these are things that actually break your story and break your reader’s immersion.

Also highly problematic are things that appear in multiple places. If you changed a character name, or mentioned something wrong tons of times, you’ll need to go through every instance where that occurs and fix it every time. If it’s just a name or term, it may be as easy as using a find and replace feature. If it’s more conceptual or vague though, you’ll have to root it out scene by scene.

Somewhat Problematic

Enhancing characters or setting is somewhat problematic in that it can take you a lot of time to do. I start with plot, so for me personally, this becomes very problematic when I get into writing the action of the plot at the expense of everything else. My critique readers have come back many times with comments that my characters are flat or that they seem like talking heads in a vast white bubble. There’s no placement in a scene for my readers when I get going. No emotional connection. These are things that I have to spend a lot of time in revisions to build.

Consistency issues can stop a reader cold. Even famous novels have them, but time turners and thestrals aside, you don’t want them in your novels either. These are usually easily searchable. If you want your character to have blue eyes but you know that in early drafts they had green, search for every instance of the word green  or green eyes in your draft. If a moon worshipping country somehow turned sun worshipping halfway through, you can search for that. You should have your notes from your readthrough to guide you on where to look for things like crossed arms where a character would instead normally check a sword in his scabbard. Again, these are somewhat problematic and may take you a while to find them all, but aren’t going to completely break your story.

Least Problematic

Spelling and grammar should be checked almost last when you are doing your revisions. As you are making huge, sweeping changes, you will inevitably write things that aren’t spelled correctly or aren’t grammatically sound. It’s okay. That’s what your computer’s spelling and grammar checkers are for, but make sure it’s one of your last passes.

Prose can also be improved almost last. If you have programs like Grammarly or ProWritingAid, this is the time to use them to dig into what words you’re using and what those words really mean. Strengthen those words as much as possible, but don’t get caught up in doing sentence-level editing when you have a plot hole to patch.

If you haven’t decided on your naming conventions, you should do so before your final pass is finished. You do not want to be capitalizing something half of the time and not capitalizing it the other half of the time. Shore up any languages you’ve created. Make sure the way your characters name each other as well as themselves is consistent. 

At the end of this step you may want to go back to step two and do another readthrough. If you’ve made a lot of changes, it’ll be good to make sure that everything still makes sense, especially with your timelines.

If you love these tips, I have this entire post as an easy to use printable checklist! If you want it, it’s totally free! 


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