Friday, January 13, 2012

Micro-level Revision

Here are a few things I read for on a micro-level  in my novel after the plot and character arcs are pretty solid, and after I’ve eliminated unnecessary scenes.

1.  Read the opening and closing of every scene and ask: Does the opening pull you in? Does the closing make you want to turn the page? If they don’t, then fix them so they do.

2.  Showing versus telling: Is there a balance? Am I showing things that I don’t need to show? Am I telling things that I need to show? There are a zillion and one ideas about showing and telling. Your decisions are going to depend on the type of story you are writing and your style.

3.  Setting: Do the setting details drive the story forward? Are they colored in a way that provides insight into the POV character and his or her current mood/emotional state?

4.  Voice: Is the voice consistent?

5.  Dialogue: I read it out loud—multiple times. If my characters are making faces or moving in other ways while they speak I act these things out to see how they look and how they feel. I’d recommend doing this in a semi-private writing space so you don’t freak anyone out. And, sometimes it’s helpful to be in front of mirror.

"Would he really tilt his head in this situation? I wonder"

I’d love to hear your thoughts on micro-level revision. Do you ever act out what your characters are doing? Or make the faces they make?


  1. Great tips - especially #5. I'm going to have to try this. I think sometimes I include too many actions during dialogue.

  2. I love that you point out that there's a place for telling. We hear "show don't tell" so much that it becomes deeply ingrained, but sometimes you have to tell the reader a few things in order to summarize some things that just don't need to occur "on screen." Like a montage, in film-making.

  3. Great advice. I have so got to get my head wrapped around the opening and closing of scenes. I can close pretty well, but the openings usually get me.

  4. Great insights, Paul. Aha! Now I know why I keep getting ejected from Starbucks: all that acting out my dialogue!

  5. I like the idea of acting out dialogue in front of a mirror, never thought of that?

  6. For whatever reason, keeping voice consistent get's me sometimes. Just get's past me at times. ;D Great advise!

  7. I've never acted out my characters' action and dialog but I have definitely read aloud. It helps. You have some great tips here. Thanks, Paul.

  8. I do all these things and all of them help. I also have a hand-made sign on my wall that says, "Never miss a chance to leave out the dull stuff".

  9. Fantastic advice! I like the one about the opening and closing of each scene, drawing the reader in and making the ending of each soon propelling the reader forward--very important stuff for sure! :)

  10. " Do you ever act out what your characters are doing? Or make the faces they make?"

    No...but now I want to!

  11. Yes, Tara. Give it a try. It's fun! :-)

  12. I'm on a VERY micro-level revision with my editor right now. Hopefully the last revision before we go to copy-edit, so I am feeling this! It's way more tedious and exhausting than I would have expected, as so many small things are called into question and I have to really think about them.

    One thing that I found helpful is when you are looking at suggested cuts it can be so easy to say, "But I LOVE that line. Why would she want to cut that line?" But cut it anyway, just to see what it does, and often what you'll see is that the beautiful line, however clever, was pulling focus from something far more important. So don't think about the loss of the pretty words, think how the deletion is now giving focus to more important things.

    Reading out loud also helps a lot.

    And take breaks and go read blogs or something to unwind your brain. Sheesh, I'm tired.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!