7 Questions to Ask Yourself as You Revise Your Novel
So you wrote your novel. Congratulations! You’ve done a great thing! Now it’s time to revise.
We’ve written plenty about writing and revising, so your head is probably already full of revision tips (and maybe even some writing tips). But here are a few questions to ask yourself as you power through revisions.
1. What are your characters’ arcs?
Look at your key characters, especially your protagonist. Did they grow throughout the story? What were the stages of their growth? What did they learn? If the answer is nothing, then maybe 1) your character starts out too smart/perfect, 2) not enough happens to test your character. If either of those things are true, then think of ways to add in scenes or character traits to allow for growth.
2. What are the stakes?
Always make sure that the characters have plenty to lose. If the stakes are high, then your readers will keep turning pages to find out what happens. If there are no stakes, then your reader might lose interest.
Try filling out these blanks for your main character: Unless [character name] [does action], [bad thing will happen].
Bonus tip: Here’s a great post about keeping your stakes and obstacles real.
3. Does your story follow the logline?
I’ve written before about what a logline is, but here’s a quick refresher: a logline is a short statement that sums up your story. As your write and revise, you should keep referring to your logline to make sure you’re on track and sticking to your story.
4. Is there consistency?
Did you change a character name halfway through? Did you change someone’s hair color? Make sure that you clean up any inconsistencies that you may have let slide during the initial frenzy of writing. The Control + F command and your word processor’s find and replace tool may be your best friends here.
Bonus tip: Here’s a great post about how small changes can have big effects on your story.
5. How’s the pacing?
Take a look at your plot. (Maybe it would help you to create an outline of major events.) Pay attention to how long each plot point takes. Do you find that setup and exposition take up too many pages, but the climax seems rushed? Do you find that the main action happens in the first third? Or nothing happens until the second half? Or are you saving major events for a sequel? Remember that your readers want a full story in Book 1 before they’ll even think about picking up Book 2. Take a close look to make sure that you’re delivering on your premise and giving your readers an exciting, well-paced story.
6. Do you know the rules of your world?
I know I listed this exact same question in a previous blog post, but seriously, worldbuilding is so important if you’re writing sci-fi, fantasy, or anything set in a world other than the one your readers are living in.
Now that you’ve written your novel, try writing up the rules of your world—or if you did that before you started planning, pull those rules out and take a look. Once you have your rules written down, read through your novel and make sure everything that happens follows those rules. You can amend your rules as needed, but know that means you may need to read through again for inconsistencies.
7. Do you have someone who can read your draft?
Do you have an alpha reader, beta reader, friend, or family member who can read your novel? If not, maybe you can join an online or IRL writing group. No matter how many times you read your book, there are always details and plot holes that someone else can catch that you can’t. Once you feel like you’ve done everything you can on your own, find a reader who can give you their honest opinion about what else needs to change.
What’s your revision process like? What are your best revision tips?