Monday, May 18, 2015

How to Revise Your Story: Part 1

Edna from The Incredibles: LUCK FAVORS THE PREPARED

A writer friend, Katrina, has asked me what to do when it comes to revising a book. I'm like "Hey, I'll send you my checklist!"

Oh no.

I thought I had saved my revision list, and I probably have, but it's under the name of Fuzzy Yellow Unicorn and buried 10,000 deep on my hard drive.

Argh. Luckily, I have it printed out and inserted in beautiful plastic sleeves in my Writing Notebook (the cover features dear Edna, above). So that means: transcription!

So because of that, this will be a multiple-part series. And it's dedicated to Katrina. (Writer friend, not hurricane.)

Background About What This Part Does

You need to see if you're writing the story you intended to write. After many years of revising stories, I've found that if I take the time to do this step, you will waste less time in the more active revisions to follow.

This section serves the following purpose: Slowing down the tornado of characters, plots and subplots in your head to truly see them again, without the blur. It allows you to poke at the story without diving straight into the quicksand of active revisions.

Part 1: What to Do After the First Draft
subtitle: Is This the Story You Intended to Write?

Do the following:

__ Write a one-sentence summary of the plot; this includes 1) the protagonist and antagonist, 2) the conflict between them, and 3) the twist.
__ Write down your theme, pre-read.
__ Write down what you wanted the story to be when you were done, and why.
__ Write down a one-line story arc for each main character.
__ Write down the main character's moral flaw and how it's hurting the others.
__ Re-read your synopsis/outline. Make a bullet list of the "candy bars" that made this story cool in the first place. (A candy bar is basically the scenes that made you want to write the story: in Pretty Woman, it might be when Edward snaps her fingers in jewelry case; in The Shawshank Redemption, it might be when Andy locks himself in with the record player.)
__ Write down the sub-themes (3-6) post-read.
__ Write down the general promises ALL writers must make.
__ Write down the promises you still intend to make.
__ Write down the back jacket (up to 250 words) of the book you wanted to write.
__ Now write down the three-line pitch with the lead's name, vocation, internal situation; the when + main plot point; and the now+ death stakes.

If you have questions along the way about any of these ideas, let me know in the comments!

Next week, I'll show you Part 2 of my process: Read the Story & Take Notes. (And yes, I tell you the notes you should be taking.)

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Sydney Strand is a writer and mom who has published two books through New York and another six via self-publishing. She writes funny little romances, but not of the Red Room of Pain variety. More like the Dan and Roseanne Connor variety--humor is sexy, dontcha know. You can follow Sydney on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and/or you can sign up for her All Things Awesome Newsletter.


  1. Hi Sydney!

    Its Shelly from KSCD! I saw your awesome checklist on Insta and I want it! It looks awesome! Please tell me I can get my grubby little hands on it?!

  2. Hi Sydney!

    Its Shelly from KSCD! I saw your awesome checklist on Insta and I want it! It looks awesome! Please tell me I can get my grubby little hands on it?!


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