Sooz’s Guide to Revisions, Lesson 1: What the heck did you write?

BigPictureProbsIf you saw the post on Wednesday, then you know where we’re heading with revisions. First, we have to make revision goals. To do that, we have to establish what you WANT to have when you finish revising. But to do that, you have to first know what you ACTUALLY have.

We’re going to figure this out by reading our novel and making note of big picture problems.  Big picture problems include anything that require more than just a sentence tweak or dialogue-tightening.  These are the pieces of the novel that tell the story–the skeleton and muscle of your book.

So, let’s dive into this very first lesson, shall we? I’ll walk you through it step-by-step.  Also, if you want to print this out or save it, I will make it available as a PDF on the For Writers page.

Supplies needed today:

  • Multi-colored pens (at least 4 colors)
  • Index cards
  • A printed copy of your entire manuscript

So what the heck did you write?

1. Print your manuscript in it’s entirety.*  Preferably double-spaced for easier writing-in, but do whatever you can do.  Also be sure your pages are numbered…  Trust me when I say you don’t wanna mess with having to organize unnumbered pages. (If you don’t have a printer, most office supply stores can print for you.)

*Okay, so I realize not everyone can or will print their MS.  Just know that when I explain how I revise, I am assuming you have a printed copy of your novel.  Do what you can.

2. Read through the entire manuscript in one sitting (if possible).  You want to read the whole thing together because everything will be much fresher in your mind, making plot problems, inconsistencies, etc. easier to spot.  Find a nice, uninterrupted spot to do this.  If you can’t read the whole thing at once, then try to do it with as little time between readings.

3. As you read, you will be using the following worksheets to identify problems in these areas:

  1. How to Use the Worksheets
  2. Sooz’s Plot Problems Worksheet
  3. Sooz’s Character Problems Worksheet
  4. Sooz’s Setting Problems Worksheet
  5. Sooz’s Other Problems Worksheet


BigPictureProbsKey4. When you see a problem,use a colored pen to mark it in the margin (this is explained in detail on the How to Use the Worksheets). My color-coding is as seen in the picture →

5. DO NOT MAKE CORRECTIONS ON THE MANUSCRIPT. When there are major problems with plot, character, voice, whatever, you will likely be cutting large portions of the text, moving chunks around, writing new scenes, etc. It’s a waste of your time to line-edit words that will end up cut or drastically altered

I learned this the hard way after spending MONTHS editing small things that wound up being removed.  Just like working if you were working with a publishing editor, you will do line-edits and small stuff LAST.

Wrapping Up

And so, my friends, we are finished with Lesson 1.  It’s a lot to absorb and a lot of work—I don’t expect you to rush through it! But, if you’re finished by next Monday, then get ready for Lesson 2!  We’ll be setting our goals and planning The Perfect Book.

Now, get head on over to the worksheets and get started finding your big picture problems!

In Lesson 3: On Monday, we’ll be getting organized!  This involves breaking that manuscript into manageable, bite-size chunks.

And if you have ANY questions, ask them in the comments!!

Lesson 1 → Lesson 2 → Lesson 3 → Lesson 4 → Lesson 5 → Lesson 6 →