MY PROCESS- Putting the Revision Checklist to Work

I am currently smack dab in the middle of my very first editorial revision with my publisher for the book that is currently known as SPIES & PREJUDICE.   The editorial process has been a lot of fun.  It’s been very much a collaboration as far as what story arcs could be emphasized/expanded and what threads could be simplified or cut.  But as for making it work in the manuscript- that’s all on me.  Talk about pressure.

I think that’s the biggest difference between taking feedback from your critique partners, or even your agent, and doing a revision for a publisher-the pressure that comes with knowing that what you are writing is actually going to be on shelves.  There’s a sense of urgency, that you need to get it right it this time.  That you have to make it better before it’s too late.  But it’s exciting too, knowing that you are creating something that will wind up in the hands of real readers.  
I’m utilizing my revision checklist, and it is saving my butt.  Big time.  You can read about the revision checklist here.  Essentially it involves creating an outline of the finished manuscript in a chart form and then figuring out what scenes to move, cut or expand right there in the chart.  The chart is typically only 2-4 pages, and I find this much easier to wrangle than a 300 page manuscript.  Here’s a sample taken directly from my revision chart (the little x’s on the right mean the change has been made in the scene:

Chap. 9
Dinner with Tyson Parks; Berry learns about father and Shauna; Tyson drinks Juiced and mentions Kennedy connections
Colin is Tyson x
Shauna is nicer x
Tyson is more dangerous x
Make sex comments less adult x
Mention Kennedy’s party x
More about mother here x
Sum up what we know so far through internal dialogue in conversation with dad x

For an extensive revision like this one, I don’t even open the manuscript file until after I have completed a fully revised chart; with all the scenes placed in their new order, outlines of new scenes included, and notes on what things need to change in each chapter.  For SPIES this process took two entire days, but at the end I had a roadmap detailed enough to get me through the entire revision.

Then it was just matter of execution, right?  


I still had to wrangle that 300 pound manuscript.  Even though I ended up keeping most of my scenes, I changed the placement of quite a few of them.  This created a continuity nightmare that I still haven’t quite recovered from.  Other scenes required complete rewrites to account for some plot threads that were cut and or to add new ones.  Some minor characters were combined.  Other characters got more airtime.  My college professor got a career change.  A major character got a name change.  What’s in a name?  A lot, apparently.  His name changed from Xander to Tanner, and with the name change came some surprising character discoveries.  Turns out that Tanner had a lot more to say than Xander ever did.

About halfway through I started to doubt myself, wondering if I was actually making the manuscript better.  On one particularly dark day, I was convinced I was making it worse. 

I think every big revision has one of those moments.  A day when the words don’t flow and everything has been so torn apart you wonder if you will ever be able to reconstruct a cohesive manuscript.  I got through this moment by reminding myself that just the day before I wrote a new scene which became my favorite in the book, one that perfectly represents who the main characters are and adds depth to their relationship.  But what really saved me was the fact that I already had a complete version of the revised manuscript mapped out.  I knew I could bring it all together, because I’d already done it in the chart.  I just had to trust the plan and follow through.

So I picked up with the revision the next day and started checking things off again.  I’m in the homestretch now, through the most significant changes.  I can nearly see the light at the end.

And it looks beautiful. 


I've never heard of this approach before. Shoulds great. Good luck with the revisions. I'm looking forward to reading the book. The title certainly has me hooked. :D

Good luck with your revision. I used yWriter for the first time to try to wrangle my WIP after the first draft. It worked like a charm to do the cut and paste and reordering, with the added benefit that it forced me to think in terms of GMC in addition to action, setting, and timeline. Plus it can show me which characters are where, and which locations I've used where. And then it spits out a synopsis. It was a revelation!

Thanks for sharing your checklist process too!


I hate those continuity nightmares! I think I'll need to apply some of this on my next major revision, Talia. Keep heading for the light.

This method's new to me! I love it. I've been trying to think of more efficient ways to handle massive amounts of book during edits, and this is very elegant. I'll have to give it a try.


Yes, revision for your editor is a special kind of scary but also very exciting. I do a similar revision outline with date stamp, mc action, subplot note. It feels very labor intensive (and sometimes dull) as you're laying it all out but it is very useful. Hang in there!

This is brilliant and I'm totally going to use it for my next draft! I was planning on doing a beat sheet, which would outline each scene, but that would run pages and pages and I dreaded doing it. This is much cleaner and faster.

Valuable information! This is why I keep coming back to YA Muses. So glad you can see light. Good luck!

Glad you found this helpful.

It's so great to have a process to fall back on. It makes the overwhelming seem almost manageable. An important part of the process for me is deconstructing the manuscript. It's where I really get to know and understand the plot and character arcs.

Martina, I have not heard of Ywriter, and I'm going to look into it. Cutting and pasting large chunks within a 300 page manuscript is its own nightmare. For huge revisions, I open a new document and cut and paste scenes in as needed, in their new chronological order. But a program that helps you do this?

Must. Have.

OMG I'm in the exact same situation you are! Just received my editorial letter for my first novel, and lemme tell you, you just saved my butt with this idea. Now uh, if you'll excuse me, I have a checklist to construct before the weekend o' revisions!

Just so you know, I included this post in my Saturday blog round-up! :)


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