How to revise your novel in 5 easy steps? (Detailed Checklist included)

Last Updated on July 20, 2022 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD

Are you stuck in the revision process for your novel? Feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start? Well, don’t worry. You’re not alone. In this blog post, I’m going to give you a detailed checklist of 5 easy steps to help make the revision process a little less daunting. So, sit back, relax, and follow along as I take you through each step one by one. With a little bit of organization and planning, you’ll be on your way to revising your novel like a pro in no time! Happy writing! 🙂

The importance of revision of your novel

Revising your novel is one of the most important steps in becoming a published author. After all, who wants to buy a book that’s littered with mistakes? Put down “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and try picking up an unedited copy from your nearest bookstore. You’ll realize very quickly why revision is crucial. This article will help you understand the importance of revision and how to go about revising your own book.

Steps for revising your novel

Here are five steps to follow when you revise your novel:

Step 1: Organize your novel revision checklist

As you’re going through each chapter in your manuscript, be sure to keep track of certain things on a separate sheet of paper: repetitive words and phrases, typos, confusing sentences or sections, instances where characters’ actions aren’t clear or consistent with their personalities—anything that might need another look before you submit are worth jotting down here. By keeping track of all your book’s wrongs, you’ll be able to tackle them one by one.

Here are some common mistakes that are found in manuscripts:

  • Repetitive words or phrases
  • Typos
  • Confusing sentences
  • Characters being inconsistent with their personalities

Step 2: Give your novel the first read-through for big picture problems

Don’t worry about nitpicking just yet. Read the entire manuscript at once, but don’t flip back and forth between chapters or edit as you go along. Focus on fixing things like poor word choice, grammatical errors, plot inconsistencies, and other overarching problems that might be too much to fix chapter by chapter.

Step 3: Make notes on each chapter of your novel

Go back through each chapter individually and make notes of anything that needs changing. You can use post-its to mark places where certain scenes could be shortened or cut entirely—doing so will help streamline your story. And don’t just focus on one scene at a time; keep revising each chapter until you hit the end of the book.

Step 4: Go back and re-read both lists while editing

For each note you made in Step 3, read through the manuscript again to fix whatever problems it brings up. Take care not to get caught up in editing while you go along. If something new comes to mind about another section, mark that down too—you can edit later. Remember that revising is different from writing; your job here is to make everything clear for readers, not create more material for yourself!

Step 5: Read through your manuscript once more

Now read through the entire book from beginning to end. Your goal here is to pick up on anything you missed during earlier edits, so take your time and be as critical as possible. After all, people will judge your novel based on this final draft, so make sure it’s something you’d want to read yourself! Don’t be afraid to quickly revise specific sections that might need further work—or even the whole thing if the need arises.

A detailed checklist of things to look for while revising

If you’ve already written a draft, know that there is more to writing than just putting down words on paper. You might have caught all mistakes in spelling or grammar, but this doesn’t mean that everything else is perfect. Even if you’re an amazing writer whose novels are already well-formed, it’s good to check over it again because things change every time you read through the story.

Remember, nobody can write something without errors—including JK Rowling! Be sure to be objective about your novel instead of being your fan. Evaluate objectively by asking yourself if each sentence carries its weight in the story, whether it’s necessary to read or not, if the dialogue is believable, and so on.

#1 Start at the beginning

Whether you wrote a lengthy first draft or just jotted down ideas for scenes as you went along, it’s best to start from scratch. Reread everything you’ve written—including outlines and research notes—and make sure that everything ties together well enough to work into a whole story. This includes checking timelines and ensuring that the protagonist has a consistent character arc.

#2 Read it out loud

This is a great way to tell if something sounds wrong or strange. Reading your novel aloud helps you catch repetition of words, phrases, or ideas; wordy sentences; and awkward sentences that suggest they’ve been written by someone who has only learned English as a second language (or by someone who’s never spoken it).

For example: “The two men walked in through the door.” It isn’t much different than: “The men walked in through the door.” Or even better: “Two men strolled into the room.”

Another example: “He walked into the room slowly.” This sentence makes you feel like you’re watching someone move in slow motion. How about: “He sauntered into the room.” Or even better: “He strutted toward the room.”

The key is to make your writing vivid and interesting by using strong verbs instead of weak ones. Instead of saying that something happened, show what happened. Paint a picture with your words; don’t merely tell your readers about it!

#3 Check facts and timelines

Even though you probably spent a lot of time researching, it’s still necessary to double-check facts and timelines. There’s nothing more embarrassing than publishing a novel only to find out that there was an error on one of these pages! Make sure that all of your information is correct and up to date.

Sometimes, the character’s actions don’t make sense. One of the most common mistakes is when they act differently than what you’d expect them to do; for example, if they’re usually calm and confident but suddenly become nervous or fearful at a time that’s not appropriate. Try to be as objective about your characters as possible by asking yourself how the reader will perceive their behavior.

#4 Check for consistency

The protagonist’s personality and actions throughout the story should be consistent. If she experiences a major character arc, her personality should evolve to fit it. For instance, if your novel deals with a self-centered protagonist and only cares about herself, this isn’t going to change just because by the end of the novel, she’s become a selfless and loving person.

Something else to look for is consistency with time and place. A dramatic event happens, and suddenly the characters are in a city miles away from where the action took place, or perhaps they run into somebody they’d never met before when you remember that this person had moved to another town months earlier.

#5 Look for anachronisms and other errors

When you’ve finished reading through your novel, have somebody read it to you so that they can help point out any mistakes. Or, you could even read it yourself by pretending that you’re a reader who’s picking up the book for the first time. This strategy will help you to determine if your story sounds realistic or not. Are the characters’ motivations obvious enough? Are any ideas unclear, confusing, or contradictory? If so, then rewrite your backstory or characters.

#6 Revise your characters’ dialogues

Dialogue is one of the hardest things that writers have to learn effectively. When revising your novel’s dialogue, ask yourself if each line feels real and natural coming out of a specific character’s mouth—or whether it feels artificial and forced. If you’re having trouble answering, either way, there are some tips for fixing this problem. Here are two examples of the same conversation between two characters rendered more genuine by tweaking the dialogue

#7 Correct the Typos

It’s a small thing, but typos can really take away from your book. In some cases, they’re not as noticeable as in others, but it still helps to give the manuscript a final check for those pesky little mistakes that you know will slip by unnoticed if you don’t catch them beforehand.

Remember that publishers often tell writers that they will only consider manuscripts that are free of errors. If you want to be taken seriously, your submission better looks professional! If you are self-publishing in Amazon, the presence of typos will attract several negative reviews, which will affect its sale and your reputation.

#8 Check the ending

The ending is one of the most important aspects of your novel, and it’s also one of the most difficult to get right. It needs to be satisfying, believable, and well-written. If your story peters out or ends on a weak note, readers will be left feeling unsatisfied and possibly even annoyed.

Some writers find it helpful to write the ending before they start writing the rest of the novel. This way, they know where they’re going, and they can ensure that all of the previous chapters are leading up to it. Others prefer to write the ending last to make sure that it’s perfect. Whichever method you choose, make sure that you take the time to revise it to be as compelling and engaging as possible.

#9 Polish the language

You don’t have to write in a fancy, ornamental way—nor do you need to write in plain order to succeed at writing. However, your novel must sound well-crafted, right from the first sentence. Editors are more likely to consider your work if it’s not full of awkward phrasing or lazy writing. If you’re unsure about what to fix, try reading aloud to yourself; this will help you hear whether any phrases sound unnatural.

When revising your novel for language, remember to consult a thesaurus from time to time. This will help you expand your phraseology and add variety to your writing.

#10 Fix any Plot Holes or Contradictions

This is another important step that many writers have a hard time with, but it’s just as key as polishing the language of your manuscript. When revising your novel for plot holes, consider whether the story feels cohesive and logical throughout. Are there inconsistencies in what you’ve written? If so, go back into the manuscript to fix them. Remember that every event needs to be motivated, or it should never have happened in the first place!

#11 Make it flow

Even if you’ve gone through the previous steps, it’s still hard for a reader to enjoy a novel without a good flow. Flow is how the sentences sound when they’re read out loud and whether they work together as a whole piece. It can be seen in how each sentence connects or how well your words create images. If you feel like something is off—even if you can’t tell what exactly—you might want to ask yourself these questions:

  • Would this scene benefit from being cut?
  • Is there too much description for my taste?
  • Does any part of this novel feel like it needs more development?
  • Is there any section that feels like it doesn’t belong?
  • Would this scene be better if I cut out the description and focused on dialogue instead?
  • Does my protagonist sound like how I want them to sound?
  • Do they grow throughout the story?
  • Or do they stay static no matter what obstacles are thrown their way?

If you answer yes to all of these questions, your novel is in perfect shape! If not—then you might need to take another look. Remember that revising is what separates good writers from great ones!

The benefits of revising your novel

Now that you know how to revise your novel, why should you put the work in? Because once you make these changes, your novel will be better than ever! Here are some of the many benefits to revising your novel:

  • Shows consistency of plot and themes.
  • Enhances storytelling skills.
  • Eliminates plot holes and contradictions.
  • Creates a clear, coherent plot with cliches.
  • Adds depth to character development.
  • Add variety in language usage.
  • Helps the story flow better.
  • Increases the interest of your readers and keeps them excited for your next book.

Final thoughts

When revising your novel, remember that you’re not just checking for errors; it’s about improving on what already exists. Read through the manuscript again to ensure that your prose is perfect, and if there isn’t anything wrong—why fix it? When making changes, be sure to think of what would make the story better rather than simply appease an external party. Remember that writing is all about having fun and what you think sounds the best, so don’t let anyone else pressure you into thinking otherwise!

Remember to revise your novel, so it’s in its best possible form before sending it off to agents or publishers. If you follow these steps, then you’re sure to see an improvement in your novel!

Good luck writing!

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