Anonymous asked: When you're finally finished with the first draft of a book and are getting ready for revision, what kinds of things are you looking to change? (Other than the obvious spelling/grammar, etc.)
I’ve heard it said (though I could not tell you where) that there are four major aspects of a book that you can use to hook a reader: language, character, plot, and world. Some people read books and love lingering over the actual words on the page, the perfect turn of phrase. Others are really drawn in by compelling worlds (think of all the bewitching details of Hogwarts!), while other readers may be more tempted by character or plot.
So when I revise, these are the four areas that I think about a lot.
THE WORLD: Where does the story take place? Is there a sense of setting? How much world-building have I done? If it’s paranormal, are the rules that govern the paranormal elements clear? Is the world-building integrated into the text, rather than info-dumped?
LANGUAGE: If I read the book out loud, how does it sound? Is the character’s voice consistent throughout the book? Are there awkward phrases? Are there unnecessary dialogue tags? Do I over-use any particular phrases? Are visuals from my brain really appearing in the imagery on the page? Can you tell by reading the dialogue which character is speaking, even if you don’t look at the tags? Are there any parts of the book where the protagonist sounds too much like one of the characters from my *other* books?
CHARACTERS Does the main character change over the course of the book? What is her emotional journey? Is she being ACTIVE over the course of the book? Are her relationships with the other characters in the book dynamic and changing? Are the heroine’s actions organic to the story, or are they just convenient for the plot? What about the side characters? Can I imagine writing stories about each of them? If they’re not interesting enough to capture my attention, they won’t be interesting enough to capture anyone else’s either. Do the supporting characters have their own emotional journeys? Are they changing and growing, too? How did they become the people they are, and is it worth hinting at their pasts on the page?
PLOT: How is the pacing? Does every single scene in the book move the story along? Am I balancing emotion and action well? Is the plot coherent? Does it make sense on the page, or just in my head? Is the ending too fast? Is the beginning too slow? Is the story too predictable? Or does the ending come out of nowhere? What do I need to texture into the book to make it make sense? What’s there that DOESN’T need to be there? Is there enough conflict in the book? Are the stakes high enough? Are the stakes PERSONAL? Have I left any of the subplots dangling? Does the book have a beginning, a middle, and an end? Even if it’s a series, is the plot of the book self-contained enough to be satisfying? Have I taken enough risks? What are the major game changers?
And finally, the last question I ask myself is: DOES EVERY SCENE DO MORE THAN ONE THING? Preferably, does it do ALL FOUR?