Monday, December 2, 2013

Make Revising Less Sucky!

I cannot believe that December is already here! I’m a total Christmas junky, and December means that I can jam out to my holiday playlist whilst breaking out the decorations. Yay! It also means that NaNoWriMo is officially over. A huge congrats to everyone who joined in.

According to the NaNo website, over 300,000 writers participated this year. That is a LOT of words. And a LOT of people will be diving into revisions over the next few months, which brings me to the point of this post. I am a revision warrior after all. *winks*

During my own frustratingly endless extended visit to revision land, I’ve stumbled upon a few tricks that have helped tremendously when it comes to making sure the plot is moving forward, which tends to be a first draft nemesis for a lot of writers. Especially when we enter into “middle” territory. Or, if you’re a three act structure sort (like me) the dreaded Act II.

Note: I can’t take the credit for coming up with these tips. They’re just things I’ve come across that became part of my process. So to all of you amazing bloggers out there that share your nuggets of wisdom, keep doing it! It really does help.

So without further adieu, I give you:

(P.S. I’ve saved my favorite for last.)

1)  Goals, Motivation, and Conflict. A.K.A. GMC’s. These buggers are essential to EVERY scene.
a.       Goal: What does your main character want?
b.      Motivation: Why does he want it?
c.       Conflict: What’s standing in his way?

If you really want an in depth look at GMC’s, here a great post by Susan Dennard on Pub(lishing) Crawl 

2)  Once your GMC’s are strong, you might notice that in each scene, your MC is either running toward something or running away/reacting to something. Use this to your advantage.

And by running, I don’t mean literally. Even in a quiet scene, this can still be applied. Think about it. Your character has a goal and strong motivation for achieving it. The steps they take to reach their goal is the running toward part. BUT, someone or something is standing in their way, right? Right!

There’s bound to be fun complications that sends your MC back to the drawing board. (Or maybe running for their life. *twirls villainous moustache* That’s at least three chapters per goal right there, folks.

a)      MC realizes goal and taking steps to achieve it.
b)      MC gets close to reaching goal and deals with complications.
c)       Retreat, regroup, replan.

Even at a modest 2500 words per chapter, that’s 7500 words per goal. If you’re aiming for an 80K novel, and your middle or second act needs to take up approximately 50,000 words, you’d need about six strong goals to get you close to ramping up for the climax. This is incredibly helpful if (again, like me) you lean toward shorter first drafts. Breaking it down into manageable chunks is way less intimidating.

And Now for my favorite!

3)  Yes, but/No, and

‘Yes, but/No, and’ answers the very important question: does your MC reach their scene goal?
The answer to which should never be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, because these answers do not move the plot forward. In sales, they’re called closed questions. They are final.

Finality in the middle of your book isn’t a good thing. That’s what endings are for.

So, does your MC reach his goal?  

Sometimes, in order to move the plot forward, your characters must achieve what they’re after—like a piece of information. In a case where the answer is, yes, the MC reaches her goal, follow it up with a but.

Ready for a terrible example?

Goal: Prince Amazeballs wants to rescue the girl he loves. Does he achieve the goal? Yes, BUT… Wait for it… She turns out to be working for evil overlord, and the whole kidnapping was a trap to lure him away from the dragon’s lair he was supposed to be protecting. BAM! A new set of problems have arisen. (I told you it was a bad example)

Okay. Next scenario.

So, does your MC reach his goal?

Much of the time, as is the way of middles, the answer is no. He may get so close that his fingers graze the prize, but alas, the big bad is there to foil his plans. That’s all good and exciting, unless it stops with at no. Something needs to come next, and preferably, it should be worse than failure.

For instance: Prince Amazeballs has amnesia and must cross the bridge of destiny to reach the forest of memories and unlock the knowledge required to save his true love. Does he achieve his goal? No. When he reaches the bridge, he discovers it has been destroyed, AND the evil overlord’s flying turtledove minions have found him. What’s an amnesiac prince to do?

Okay, so I know these examples are quite silly, but Yes, but/No and has helped my plot out of many a slump. What's your favorite tip for revising? Let us know in the comments!


  1. OH MY GOODNESS! I just finished NaNo and this is the PERFECT blog post for managing a much needed revision!! I'm bookmarking it now! I LOVE your amazeballs examples!! LOL! :D

  2. Love these tips Cheryl! I cant wait to try "Yes, but/No, and" on my current WIP. It's always amazing what you can discover about your work by trying something new. I think my favorite revision tip right now is reading your work out loud. But who knows?? Maybe it will soon become the "Yes, but/No, and" technique! :-)