In all writing processes, especially fiction\u00a0writing,\u00a0drafting\u00a0your novel\u00a0is only half the battle; the other half involves performing the oft-dreaded tasks of revising and editing. To pick out plot holes, voice inconsistencies and other errors in your current draft so you can begin amending and improving upon them... This is no easy feat.\r\n\r\nSo where do you start looking? How do you deal with the problems and issues that you've found?\r\n\r\nHere are eight\u00a0steps for you to use\u00a0as a guide through\u00a0your revision\u00a0process\u2026\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nMake yourself a coffee and follow our eight steps to revising your novel! Image credit: Martin Vorel via StockSnap Creative Commons.\r\n1. Take a step back\r\nAfter completing your draft, set it aside for at least a month (the longer you leave it, the better!)\u00a0before coming back to it and re-reading it with a fresh pair of eyes.\r\n\r\nWhy set your work aside, you might wonder? When\u00a0you've just finished composing your draft, it tends to be more difficult for you to view that particular piece of writing with a critical eye.\r\n\r\nThat\u2019s when you need to take a step back. Mark a date in your calendar as a reminder that, say, six months from now, you will go back to your draft. Then immerse yourself in other projects and activities, and cast away any\u00a0thoughts on your current manuscript. After all, only with the fresh eye of forgetfulness can you more effectively spot and tackle the shortcomings in your draft.\r\n\r\nWhen it comes to\u00a0critically\u00a0evaluating your own writing, author Tracey Baptiste advises:\r\n[Think] of the time you take away from a manuscript as an investment in your craft, rather than a delay in seeing your title in print. If you wait to do your best work, you will faster get an agent or editor. If you don\u2019t, you\u2019ll be wasting time in a slush pile anyway.\u201d\r\nRemember: there is\u00a0no\u00a0magic formula for how long you should wait, only that you should wait as long as is necessary.\r\n2.\u00a0Perform a read-through\r\nThe read-through is all about reading through your draft at a slow and careful pace.\r\n\r\nBefore you start, draw up a table with two columns, like so:\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nProblems\r\nSolutions\r\n\r\n\r\nJot down any issues or discrepancies you encounter within your draft.\r\n\r\nQuick tip:\u00a0Think in terms of plot and character development, not in terms of grammar and sentence structure.\r\n\u00a0Jot down possible paths you could take in order to solve those issues or discrepancies.\r\n\r\nQuick tip:\u00a0This column is for brainstorming only; the solutions you write down here won't necessarily be implemented.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIt's\u00a0a good idea to\u00a0take breaks between each couple of chapters, as you don't want to overload your mind and decrease your overall productivity.\r\n\r\nAn important point to note here is that conducting a read-through isn't\u00a0simply about spotting problems. It\u2019s also about\u00a0evaluating\u00a0your novel's plot and scenes\u00a0in terms of:\r\n\r\n\tPlot originality, predictability, complexity, logicality\/consistency, pacing;\r\n\tA satisfying beginning and end;\r\n\tCharacters \u2013\u00a0their motivations and relevance to the plot.\r\n\r\nMake sure to have a list of questions\u00a0prepared\u00a0as a guide to aid you through your evaluation process. When well-constructed, a list should give you a clearer sense of purpose and direction, so you know what you need to be looking for before you actually start looking for them.\u00a0Check out the\u00a0list of questions\u00a0you should ask during your first read-through, suggested by the author of the popular\u00a0Divergent\u00a0series, Veronica Roth.\r\n\r\nStart the read-through of your novel with a pen and paper at hand for making notes. Image credit: Negative Space via StockSnap Creative Commons.\r\n2.1 PLOT\r\n2.1.1 Originality\r\nThere are certain \u2018rules\u2019 and \u2018conventions\u2019 to every genre, and originality partly stems from breaking, parodying or deviating from these rules. As you read through your draft, note down your main plot developments.\r\n\r\nCompare your timeline to any previous novels you\u2019ve read or movies you\u2019ve watched. Are there too many resemblances between your plot and theirs? If you\u2019re unfamiliar with the genre you\u2019re working in, consult a friend or someone who has some experience in the field.\r\n\r\nMany online resources provide\u00a0comprehensive\u00a0lists of clich\u00e9d storylines you might want to avoid: for example, we found a list of overused fantasy clich\u00e9s, as well as\u00a0an expansive\u00a0'clich\u00e9 gallery' full of genre-specific tropes to avoid.\r\n2.1.2 Predictability\r\nAn overuse of clich\u00e9s often results in a predictable (and therefore tedious) story; giving away too much information all at once, rather than gradually through plot development, also tends to create situations where the reader can easily guess what will happen next. This inevitably snuffs out the mystery and suspense in your story.\r\n\r\nSuch a problem is known as info-dumping. What\u2019s crucial is that you think creatively of\u00a0ways to avoid info-dumping; in other words, consider how you could transform\u00a0\u2018telling\u2019 into \u2018showing\u2019.\r\n\r\nInfo-dumping often\u00a0takes\u00a0place while exploring the following things:\r\n\r\n\tA character\u2019s backstory or personality traits;\r\n\tRules that govern the story's world;\r\n\tSci-fi technology;\r\n\tFantastical creatures;\r\n\tThe mechanisms beyond an ability\/power (whether magical or not).\r\n\r\nRemember: while you shouldn\u2019t leave everything ambiguous at the risk of sounding\u00a0too vague and confusing, you also shouldn\u2019t fall into the trap of spelling everything out to the reader. So\u00a0look out for parts of your story where you\u2019ve revealed too much, or where you\u2019ve explicitly expressed a point that the reader could have easily deduced themselves.\r\n2.1.3 Complexity\r\nCreate an overly complex plot\u00a0(i.e. too many subplots, flashbacks or dream sequences), and you run the risk of confusing the reader to the point that your story loses its focus and momentum. Too shallow of a plot, however, and you potentially jeopardise the meaning and purpose that underlies your story. The trick is finding a balance between these two ends of the spectrum.\r\n\r\nTo find such a balance as you conduct the read-through, you first need to determine how complexity in a rich, nuanced story differs from that in a cumbersome and overcomplicated one. Consider the following:\r\n\r\n\tDoes the complexity add to your story or is it needless?\r\n\tDo those complex elements run along the same theme, or are they arbitrary (and therefore pointless)?\r\n\tHave you integrated the complexity smoothly into your theme\/s, or does it stick out as unnatural and awkward?\r\n\r\n2.1.4. Logicality\/consistency\r\nMake sure there aren\u2019t scenes where the following inconsistencies occur:\r\n\r\n\tItems mysteriously disappear.\r\n\tCharacters appear in settings or scenes they shouldn't be in.\r\n\tYou unintentionally change\u00a0a\u00a0character\u2019s name halfway through.\r\n\tYou completely abandon your large cast of minor characters until a couple hundred pages later\u2026which creates shocking moments\u00a0where a long-forgotten character from Chapter Two randomly pops up in Chapter 20, without receiving any kind of mention in between.\r\n\r\n2.1.5 Pacing\r\nPace is essentially the manipulation of time within your story. If the pace is too fast,\u00a0readers may find it difficult to keep up with your sequence of events or may find their progression unrealistic. Too slow a pace, however, and you may find the reader falling into a state of boredom very quickly.\r\n\r\nThe key is to control the pace so that the speed of the story corresponds with its height on the plot diagram.\r\n\r\nThe rule-of-thumb is: the closer to the climax your story is, the faster its pacing should be. Keep in mind that readers typically prefer fast-paced novels interjected with occasional slow scenes, over the\u00a0reverse.\r\n\r\nAs you read your draft, take note of\u00a0any scene that either leaps ahead too rapidly or drags back too drastically. Then, brainstorm possible techniques you could apply in order to\u00a0slow the pace of your prose\u00a0or keep your story moving\u00a0quickly enough.\r\n\r\nAuthor K.M. Weiland\u00a0gives some great tips on how you can effectively control pacing:\r\n\r\n\r\n2.1.6 Satisfying beginning and end\r\nThe first and final\u00a0impressions\u00a0that\u00a0your story leaves upon the reader tend to remain the most memorable, so it\u2019s paramount that you spend sufficient time evaluating the beginning and end of your draft.\r\n\r\nConsider the following points for your beginning:\r\n\r\n\tHook\u00a0\u2013 Does the first sentence grab the reader\u2019s attention? Does it make the reader ask questions? Here, you want to avoid long, slow descriptions of the setting.\r\n\tDisruption\u00a0\u2013 Is there tension or suspense in the air? Is trouble already brewing right from the start? Have you established high-enough stakes? As Kurt Vonnegut advises, 'Start as near to the end as possible.'\r\n\tBackstory\u00a0\u2013 Include a minimal amount of backstory; the rule of thumb is \u2018the less, the better\u2019. Gradually weaving in the backstory throughout your novel is far better than dumping it all down in the introduction.\r\n\tEmotion\u00a0\u2013 Instead of writing what you know, try writing what you\u00a0feel. Add\u00a0intimate details on how your character acts or reacts to the world and people around him\/her.\r\n\r\nFor inspiration, take a look at these\u00a0100 best first lines from novels.\r\n\r\nAs for your ending, the most significant point\u00a0to consider is whether or not your story effectively builds up to\u00a0its\u00a0conclusion. This is imperative, especially if you find that the direction of your story changes midway through your draft.\r\n\r\nWrite down any scenes or chapters that do very little to propel\u00a0your story towards its climax and resolution. Will the removal of these segments disrupt the flow\u00a0of the story, or will it actually help to build\u00a0the momentum?\r\n\r\nEconomy is crucial. Therefore, it\u2019s essential that most (if not all) of the elements in your novel have some function in shaping or defining the ending\u00a0of your story. It may also be\u00a0worthwhile coming back to your introduction after you've read the conclusion, as this could help you\u00a0draw\u00a0a connection between the two and enhance your capacity to tie up loose ends.\r\n\r\nPay particular attention to the beginning and ending of your novel. Image credit: Green Chameleon via StockSnap Creative Commons.\r\n2.2 CHARACTER\r\n2.2.1 Relevance to plot\r\nEnsure\u00a0that all the characters in your story \u2013 both major and minor \u2013 have some kind of arc or necessary role to play. The character shouldn\u2019t just exist for the sake of existing; he\/she needs to be contributing, in some way or another, to the progression of plot or to the growth of another character.\r\n\r\nYou might also encounter situations where you realise you\u2019re\u00a0missing\u00a0a character, and need to\u00a0bring\u00a0another character aboard so that your story can make greater sense.\r\n2.2.2 Motivation\r\nMuch like people in real life, all your characters do things for a reason. At any given moment, they must want something or be pursuing something, and it\u2019s your job as the author to convey to the reader (in an interesting way) why they have particular motivations.\r\n\r\nAsk yourself questions like:\r\n\r\n\tWhy does my protagonist continue to fight, even when all odds are against her?\r\n\tWhy does my villain perform the evil that he does?\r\n\tDo the characters' actions and behaviour match up with their backstories?\r\n\r\nEveryone has a reason, even if that reason doesn\u2019t become apparent until the very end.\u00a0So while you read your draft, keep in mind that, ultimately, it\u2019s up to you as the author to make your readers understand\u00a0those reasons. When exploring your character's motivations,\u00a0author of Let\u2019s Write a Short Story! Joe Bunting says:\r\nTo understand the motivations of your characters, you need to interrogate them. Strap them to a chair, shine a bright light in their eyes, and make them talk\u2026 [then] you need to show the reader what you learned.\u201d\r\n3.\u00a0Decide what and what NOT to change\r\nThat being said, you might not always be certain whether the 'problems' you spot within your draft are actually problems at all. At times, you'll\u00a0find yourself in a dilemma where you just don't know if you should make the\u00a0potential edit or not. Under these\u00a0circumstances, a third category emerges: the 'maybe, maybe not' category.\r\n\r\nIn a new list, jot any questionable 'problems'\u00a0down and keep track of all the sections in your draft that stand in ambiguous territory.\u00a0You\u00a0may (or may not) address those sections later on, but for now, they are marked as things to mull over subconsciously while you focus on the\u00a0clearer\u00a0issues at hand.\r\n4. Identify\u00a0global and local issues\r\nGlobal issues involve novel-wide changes; that is, changes that require edits to be made throughout the\u00a0entire\u00a0draft. For example, if\u00a0you decide that the\u00a0dynamic\u00a0between two characters needs to be altered, then a global issue arises.\r\n\r\nLocal issues,\u00a0on the other hand, apply only to specific scenes or specific groups within those scenes. Thus, decisions to 'add a plot development after page 234' or to 'rework the dialogue on page 100' are cases of local issues.\r\n\r\nBut the two are not always as distinct as their definitions may suggest. As\u00a0author Veronica Roth points out,\r\nLocal issues become global issues when you, say, add a scene and then have to edit the rest of the draft to reflect that scene, or when you delete a scene and have to remove all subsequent mentions of that scene."\r\nNonetheless, try your best to divide the\u00a0table of problems and possible solutions into 'local' and 'global' issues.\u00a0An effective method\u00a0of doing this is through\u00a0using highlighters and colour-coding each problem accordingly.\r\n\r\nStart with the global issues first.\u00a0The reason for this is because the solution to a global issue may result in the removal of a specific scene that contained a local issue.\r\n5. Create an editing checklist\r\nWhat if you have very few global issues but a very long list of scenes to write or edit? That's when a checklist comes into use. Arrange the list of scenes in order of decreasing difficulty (tackle the more challenging areas first, and you'll make your life easier later on!), then go through the draft item by item. Try to set\u00a0goals \u2013 for example, editing two scenes per day \u2013 as a way of staying motivated and productive.\r\n\r\nChecklists are also helpful when making more general global edits, as they help to direct your attention to individual tasks during your revision sessions. Think in terms of:\r\n\r\n\tEdit character X's voice throughout;\r\n\tMake sure group conversations aren't confusing throughout; and so on.\r\n\r\n6.\u00a0Have\u00a0peers review your work\r\nHave someone else (preferably someone with good knowledge of your genre, and whose opinion you value highly) go through your current draft. And remember: don't\u00a0limit yourself to a single reviewer. In fact,\u00a0the more constructive feedback you can gather, the more effectively you can amend any plot holes or deficiencies present in your manuscript.\r\n\r\nThink of the feedback as a\u00a0valuable way of gaining insight into the successful aspects of your draft and the aspects that still need work.\u00a0Their feedback should fall under three broad categories:\r\n\r\n\tWhat have you\u00a0done well?\r\n\tWhat\u00a0haven't you\u00a0done so well?\r\n\tWhat can you\u00a0improve on?\r\n\r\nEven better, take initiative and provide your reviewers with a more detailed range of\u00a0questions\u00a0that focus on the areas in your novel you are most uncertain about\u00a0(for example, a checklist about the structure of your novel).\r\n\r\nCarefully consider their comments and pointers, but remember that you are the final decision-maker. Let their review guide your own revising process, not define it.\r\n\r\nDiscussing your novel with peers is an important part of the revision process. Image credit: Startup Stock Photos via StockSnap Creative Commons.\r\n7. Make use of different tools\r\nA number of easily accessible tools\u00a0can help make your revising and editing processes just that little bit easier. These include:\r\n\r\n\tWebsites\u00a0like\u00a0Litlift and Hiveword\u00a0allow\u00a0you to create profiles on your characters (both major and minor), keep track of your characters' items\/possessions, and also manage your chapters. The key to efficient revision is organisation, and these sites are perfect for organising all the small, intricate details that you may find difficult to keep track of in your head.\r\n\tMicrosoft Word comments\u00a0enable you to make notes for certain words, phrases, paragraphs and blocks of text; it's\u00a0a little like digital sticky notes, but more expandable and manageable.\r\n\tThe Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word saves your edits so that\u00a0you have the option to either\u00a0approve or reject those edits.\r\n\tColour-coded tables can help you keep track of the storyline and character development at a single glance.\r\n\tGiant pieces of paper with sticky notes on them\u00a0are\u00a0also useful for mapping\u00a0out the development of your story.\r\n\r\nSticky notes: a novel writer's best friend. Image credit: Green Plastic Amy via Flickr Creative Commons.\r\n8. Edit grammar and sentence flow\r\nOnce your 'big edits' are complete, it's time to begin\u00a0making small but equally important edits throughout your manuscript as a method of improving flow, momentum and grammatical fluency. This involves such tasks as fixing up grammatical errors, rearranging clauses, and making changes to\u00a0sentence or paragraph length and structure.\r\n\r\nIn essence, this is a process of small deletes and small re-writes; it could be as\u00a0slight\u00a0as using an alternative\u00a0word or phrase. The Write Life has some great editing tips for tightening your expression, and\u00a0Grammar Girl provides some more general\u00a0tips for editing and revising.\r\n\r\nFix\u00a0up the definite errors (such as typos) first, then\u00a0turn your attention to the more indefinite questions like 'Is the adjective necessary here?'\u00a0or 'Is there a better word to replace this?', which typically\u00a0require more thought and contemplation.\r\n\r\nIt's worthwhile taking the time to consider exactly what effect you want to convey, and to subsequently decide (perhaps aided by the wisdom of more experienced writers) what you believe to be\u00a0the most fitting choice.\r\n\r\nHang in there -- you're almost finished the revision process! Image credit: Luis Llerena via StockSnap Creative Commons.\r\n***\r\nIf\u00a0your draft is a\u00a0sculpture with rough edges and imperfect curves,\u00a0then\u00a0revision is your chisel; your goal is to carve\u00a0out the all problems and shortcomings you find within\u00a0your draft.\u00a0Strengthen the weaknesses\u00a0in\u00a0your manuscript, and\u00a0build upon the\u00a0strengths.\r\n\r\nRevising may be\u00a0difficult, but as long as you stay organised, stay consistent and stay determined,\u00a0it's not impossible.\u00a0So keep at it; the\u00a0outcome will be worth all your effort.