Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tips for Revising Your Novel

I am nearly completed with my 14th revision of my novel, REDWOOD BLOOD. Yes, I said fourteenth. It's my first novel, so like many of you newbie writers, I made mistakes. Some of them were huge, like my main character was originally a female, then I listened to a few readers and changed her to a male, and then changed her back when my critique group said, "This is a strong female character." 

Smaller mistakes were:

  • forgetting what the characters were wearing, and adding clothes
  • weedy word use
  • using odd tag lines instead of "said"
  • weak verbs
  • cliches 
  • ending a chapter without suspense
  • ending a chapter not with the main character

So as I've revised, I've asked for help. I've asked my target audience to be readers. I've read out loud to my critique group, and I also paid an editor to read my first 4 chapters and give professional advice. All these people have helped me to become a stronger writer, and they've helped to make my first novel powerful.

Below you will find what has helped me the most:

Analysis of each chapter: 

This means you read each chapter as a stand alone and analyze it  for the following. Strengths of the (drama, action, mystery, fantasy, adventure) moments.
  1. Motive of the MC - Protagonist (hero)
  2. Motive of the Antagonist (villain)
  3. Motives of the Secondary characters
  4. Main Point in this chapter
  5. Humor Moments
  6. Dialogue: Who speaks the most in each chapter
  7. Dialogue vs. Description vs. Plot - Which one has the most lines in each chapter
  8. Why do you care about this chapter? Is it necessary to move the story forward?
  9. Could you read this chapter 10 times and still find it interesting?

To begin this analysis you can either print out each chapter and use highlighters, or highlight in word. Be sure to create a key for yourself so you know what each color means. 

During your initial analysis, you may want to check for the following:

Strong Verbs: 

In one of my MFA writing classes we came up with a list of verbs a Dentist, Cook, and Carpenter would use. It was a fun exercise and it helped us to make strong verb choices in our writing.
  • Try to avoid weak verbs like: IS, ARE, WAS, WERE
  • Avoid verbs that explain what is about to happen like: "I began to cry." Instead say, "I cried."
  • Try to avoid verbs with ing endings: "She was laughing." Is much weaker than, "She laughed."

 Be Specific in your Descriptions:

The building was very tall. = boring

The building towered into the sky like Mt. Tam, looming over the rest of the city, and blocking out the warmth of the sun. = you get a better sense of how tall it is.

Especially if you are writing for children, put yourself in their shoes. Objects that adults see every day are very curious or scary to a child, depending on age group. Have fun with your descriptions to create the mood of your plot.

Words to eliminate: Modifiers & Indicators of Time
  • even
  • exactly
  • just
  • so
  • very
  • really
  • that
  • anyway
  • definitely
  • first
  • in a minute
  • suddenly
  • then
  • finally
  • after a while

After you've checked each chapter for all of the above, reread the entire book from cover to cover. Ask yourself:

  • Why do I care?
  • Who am I rooting for?
  • Do I want to keep turning the page?
  • Where would a reader tend to stop?
  • Am I bored? If I'm bored readers will be bored.

Once you've done this final step put your manuscript away for at least a week. Do not talk about it. Do not work on it. Do not jot anything down. Let it rest. Start a new project...and no, not the sequel to it. Work on something completely different. 

After a week, reread. If you are happy, very happy with it, send it out. And good luck!



  1. Angie, these are the best, practical tips on revision that I've come across. My compliments and thanks.

    Ratan Kaul

  2. Thanks Ratan! That means a lot coming from you.

  3. Thanks for the helpful tips! I'm about to dive into revisions tomorrow so this article gave me more confidence to dive in.

  4. Glad it will help you. Good Luck Elly!!!