My fingers have typed and typed, the draft is on the page, what next? REVISE!
Being a firm CDO candidate (OCD in the proper alphabetical order), my revising process is very exact. Granted that as writers and illustrators we are artist, so my organized method may seem insane. But, perhaps an idea or two will help you along your journey.
You will need a box of crayons or markers with at least 12 different colors (I told you that my way was exact) and 1 index card. You can use different colors for different things but this is my story, so it’s my color description :-)
Blue- I underline each time my main character is referred to or speaks.
Red- I put a mark by each time another character is mentioned or referred to.
Is there more red than blue in your story? Then ask yourself, “who is my story about?”
Let’s check our tenses:
Purple- mark every word that ends with an “ed”.
Yellow- mark every word that ends with an “s” or an “ing”.
Pink- mark every single did, didn’t, was, wasn’t, were, said, asked, had, hadn’t, went, gone or been.
Green- mark every single do, does, doesn’t, is, am, are, says, asks, has, hasn’t, have, haven’t, go, goes, going, be and will.
Words that end with “ed” are generally past tense while words that end with an “s” or “ing” or generally present tense. Check all of your purple and yellow marks to ensure that you aren't tense wobbling.
Now, do you have pink and green marks in the same story? You are tense wobbling. Decide your point of view and then fix it.
“There ain’t no stinking math in revising.” Oh, yes there is. Know your word count without any authors notes, back matter or bibliography. Put an Orange line at 10% and 75% of your story.
At 10% of your story we need to know the who the main character is and what the problem is.
At 75% we need to feel that all hope is lost and begin our resolution.
This works for everything, watch movies and television. On a one hour TV show, by the first commercial we know who the story is about and what their problem will be. And, when there is only fifteen minutes left we lose all hope: the good guy is captured, the couple gives up, etc. Then we begin the resolution as the good guys picks the lock and breaks free only to save the day or the couple run into each other in the grocery store and all love is rekindled. It’s the 10/75 solution.
Turquoise- Have someone read your story and put a X by any part where their mind wanders off in another direction. This lets you know what to cut or where to amp up the drama.
Now, let’s grab that index card. Does your story satisfy the reader? On one side write your first sentence or two. On the back side write your last sentence of the story. Now read it as though those sentences were your story. Does the end satisfy the beginning? I call this the “Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after effect.”
Look at some of your favorite books and you will see the satisfaction that the ending delivers.
And finally- SHOW-vs-TELL, the words we hear over and over and over again.
You should have four colors left to use.
Lime Green- mark every sensory word including all forms of feel, smell, taste, listen, heard, saw, viewed and touched.
Brown- mark all words that show emotion such as scared cried whimpered, trembled, laughing, saddened, and even cliches like knots in her stomach.
Lavender- Action words, lets use those verbs. Mark ever action word from ran, skipped, chop, bark, hid and more.
Baby Blue- Mark every adjective from colors, temperatures of cold, hot, muggy, actual sounds such as creaking or tastes like sour or bitter. Words that end with an “ly” are very often adjectives.
Now look at your story, do you have lots of lime green, brown, lavender and baby blue filling your story? You should. These are the words that put us in the story.
Example of us telling:
In July, 1776, men gathered in a building to sign a piece of paper.
Can you see the illustrations? Sun shining since it is July, men in clothes from 1776 era, a building and maybe even a banner that says, “1776.”
Now let’s show the story:
On a steamy July day in 1776, some very important men gathered. Excitement filled their hearts as they signed not just any piece of paper, but the declaration of the United States of America.
Whatever your revision process might be, I hope that it brings your story to success.