Using a revision outline to guide editing your novel

Last week, I posted about content editing your novel. In the post, I mentioned that I use a revision outline, so I wanted to share that with you today.

I am now unsure where I got this outline. I think I condensed it down and adjusted one from an online writing class I took years ago. But when I am done with my second draft, this is usually the outline I pull out to ensure I do a complete job of editing.

Even though the notes say to do only one of these at a time, I typically do several at once working on each chapter separately.

Revision Outline

 Do only ONE step at a time. If you find another area that needs work – mark it and then continue with the current fine-tuning project. Work in block sections (defined by chapters). Complete each “block” before going on.

1.)    Structure – develop a clear, compelling plot.

a.)    Look for scenes that are passive/dialogue with no tension.

b.)    Scenes that don’t build or are anti-climatic.

NOTES: Each scene has a beginning, middle and end – there must be a climax/tension spot for each scene – make sure dialogue scenes have tension and are not just “passing time”

2.)    Texture – Sharpen descriptive passages to make characters, setting, and action more vivid – SHOW, DON’T TELL

a.)    Look for too much/too little description

b.)    Clichés

c.)    Too many adjectives/adverbs

d.)   Information dumps

e.)    Background or setting info in the wrong place

3.)    Dialogue – Elicit character personality through conversation

a.)    Look at taglines (placement, too many, too few, too much extra information)

b.)    No information dump

c.)    Bland or melodramatic lines

NOTES: Read dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds natural/realistic

4.)    Editing – Tighten pace and continuity

a.)    Look for repetition through implication

b.)    Slow passages

NOTES: Cut, cut, cut! Don’t repeat what the reader already knows or what is implied elsewhere. Be ruthless! Tighten up the copy without fear of shortening the novel.

5.)    Blending – search and destroy any weakness.

a.)    Look for soft spots – unclear character motivations, actions that seem contrived.

b.)    Fix by expanding or adding a scene so the novel flows

6 thoughts on “Using a revision outline to guide editing your novel

  1. Great info as always. Though extensive, obvious repetition should be avoided, I wonder how many readers like me aren’t bothered by the occasional, well-worded second look. That situation alone would make a great post.

    I’d love to syndicate this list on The Masquerade Crew. If interested, see the following link.

  2. […] these corrections are done, I can use my revision outline to tighten my writing, perfect word choices and descriptions and cut unnecessary words. And when I […]

  3. […] deleting or changing the words on my list, I began going over each chapter with my Revision Outline. This helps me review each section for structure and blending. I review dialogue and work on […]

  4. […] your first draft is done, you can begin the next step of editing and shaping your novel. (Here is a revision check list that might […]

  5. […] And when you are done perfecting the story, the timeline, the characters, it is time for the third draft where you will further tighten your writing, perfect word choices and descriptions, cut unnecessary words and fix punctuation. (For help on the third draft, check out my revision outline). […]

  6. […] As you start to work through the above items, make notes in a revision journal, or start a revision outline. There is an example of this by “Into Another World,” HERE. […]

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