“What’s a rewrite?” Tom Clancy quipped at a recent conference. “I write them pretty much the way you guys read them and I turn in a fairly clean product.” Clancy feels he is the exception to the rule although I’ve seen a fair share of places his story needed help. At the other end of the spectrum most of us go through many drafts before we’re done; However, after reading a work ten or more times, it can become too familiar, making it next to impossible to flush out mistakes and recognize areas that could use some rework. At some point, each reading seems to accomplish less than the one before.
Here’s a tip to help make your revision time more productive. Take a piece of paper and list the problems you hope to discover and correct. Your list could look something like this:
- 1. Look for the deadwood, the unnecessary bits that don’t move the story forward.
- 2. Check the first paragraph of each chapter for “hooks.”
- 3. Check the end of each chapter for “cliffhangers.”
- 4. Examine each page for balance between dialogue, action, introspection, and description.
- 5. Find places to build in more character traits.
- 6. Look for inconsistencies.
- 7. Look for repetition, words (and ideas) repeated too often, or too close to each other.
- 8. Find typos and grammatical errors.
This is a sample applicable to one of my stories under construction. There would be other things more important to your story. Determine what you want, write them down, and then work through the list.
Each time you read your manuscript, choose one point from your list and ignore the others. A reading needs to accomplish something specific, a set goal. By knowing what it is you plan to accomplish, your reading time will accomplish more.