Today’s writing tool is for that moment after you’ve finished your first draft, but can’t quite figure out how to revise it to a ready-to-publish book. It just kills me to see folks moving commas around and thinking they’re making progress!
To take the subjectivity out of big editing decisions, I created a simple fill-in-the-blank chart that asks you questions about each chapter/scene… so the answers become ridiculously obvious.
Are you concerned that the “inciting incident” happens too late in the story? Have a look at the word count and plot points shown for your first two chapters. If at the end of those few thousand words, your reader still doesn’t know what’s “interrupting the status quo” for your hero, then it’s time to tighten things up and start the book closer into the action of the scene.
Do you realize how many characters you are asking your reader to meet in any one chapter or scene? Just check the “Characters Present” and “Characters Mentioned but Not Present” columns. Chances are if you have introduced more than three or four new names, the reader will be juggling the who/what/when/where. And while readers enjoy having puzzle pieces to pull together during a book, they tend to hate it when they can’t even identify the border pieces.
You might also scan the characters columns to notice whether multiple peeps have similar names. If you see two or three that begin with the same first letter, it’s going to confuse your reader… especially if they have multiple duplicate letters or are about the same length. (Ex: Jaden, Jarek, and Jedah are each distinctive and awesome names, but if they appear in the same story, we’re liable to get them mixed up!)
Or perhaps you’re questioning whether a certain chapter is carrying its weight. If you find yourself unable to clearly describe the plot point for that scene, or identify how it’s hinting at future plot developments for your characters, you’ll have your answer!
Because I adore you and want to see you succeed, you can download this free spreadsheet here… then set aside a couple short blocks of time to fill it out as you read through your manuscript. I recommend one pass just to measure the word counts (highlight each chapter/scene, and MS Word will show you the word count in the lower left corner of your screen), and one pass just to scan for character names (they leap out because they start with capital letters).
Let me know what you learn about the missing links in your draft! And if you need help at any point along the way, we can set up a 1-on-1 coaching call to talk you and your characters down off the ledge (*smile*).
Reply here to share your personal insights or sign up for coaching.