Always take time to check these 3 steps before declaring a project ready for edit. They save so much time for the fiction writer.
- Whether you’re an outliner or not, create a list of all the major plot points which must be in place before the conclusion.
- Each time you finish a revision session, save the manuscript in at least two places.
- Always run your final copy through beta readers.
Let’s look at the logic behind each of these steps individually.
Outlines consist only of a story’s signposts; a series of events which must occur between the opening sentence and the last words of the story. It really is that simple. You don’t need details of how, where, why, etc. You need only those signposts in your outline. The list helps keep your story train on its timeline track.
- Researchers create special equipment for use at sightings if needed.
- Scientists verify a sighting in a public library.
- More sightings occur.
- They hang out their shingle and go to work as independent contractors in ghostbusting
- EPA steps in to control researchers’ activity
- Situation with EPA devolves until the city’s government is involved
- Researcher’s love interest is taken over by evil entity, along with another person
- Researchers must discover identity of evil entity and devise way to dispel evil’s control
- Researchers fight entity and entity’s minions in the Empire State Building, climaxing with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and win.
- Possessed humans are released and rescued
- Boy and girl declare their love
- Everyone prospers
An outline can get even simpler, but doesn’t have to. You only need an intro, an middle with action development and a climax/conclusion. The twelve outline points above don’t take up much space on paper, but getting from the first point to the last gets filled with tiny details that take up two hours of viewing time.
Revising for Results
Once your rough draft is done, the fun begins. Revising allows the writer to catch and fill in all of those amorphous details that color the story with rainbows and leave the scent of fresh-baked bread behind. And that’s what many readers look for. Unless, of course, you’re dealing in horror.
Before beginning your revision, make a copy of that rough draft, with a new title, to work from. Then, each time you finish a revision session, be it an hour’s worth or a day’s, save that baby in at least two places. Try on your hard drive and a flash drive, or the cloud and a flash drive. Whichever method you use, do it. Don’t forget.
It only takes one glitch to leave you with nothing but sunshine and a rough draft. It happens all the time to writers everywhere. You don’t want to have to begin a revision from scratch from the rough draft again. The frustration and lost hours aren’t worth the risk.
Use Beta Readers
Unless your story is flash fiction, send your baby to a solid list of beta readers for review. Try to get a mix of “strictly” readers and a few actual writers. You get something special from each side of the house.
The beta reader can find all those flaws that the writer misses during revision and edit. You can guess the ones; continuity errors, name changes, characters’ unexplained dialect shifts, timeline anomalies, word misuse, the dreaded word-of-the-day, and more. (Word-of-the-day refers to those common words we end to use unconsciously far more often than necessary.)
Once you get those copies back with comments, corrections, and suggestions, you’re ready to tackle the final edit and spell check. You editing task will take less time and be more accurate after having so many sets of eyes on it.
The writer who takes these three steps to do each of these steps eliminates greater timewasters and frustration in the long run. A brief but pointed outline is your train’s engineer and keeps you on your time table. The revision conductor makes sure you always have a second secured, current revision copy to safeguard your work. Beta readers act as brakemen to keep you accountable for the quality of your work. Your manuscript is better for the steps taken throughout the process.