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Critique your manuscript with this checklist

For me, revising a manuscript is like putting a puzzle together — making all the pieces click into the right places. But without a plan, it can be overwhelming.

You’ll find many ways to approach revisions depending on the phase you’re at in the process. Below, I’ve offered tips I’m following as I revise my current work in progress. Maybe, they’ll help you too.

First, I print out a double-spaced copy and take a pass through it, noting where I’ll go back and make detailed changes. This is what I look for:

1. Awkward sentences, phrases. Note with an “AWK” in the margin and circle the sentence or phrase.

2. Vague or wrong words. These could be places where another word would be better or I want to get more specific. Common changes here include the word “some,” non-specific descriptors, such as “beautiful,” and places where I should show instead of tell.

3.  Sections that don’t flow or fit. Draw a line along the margin of these sections and note it. (watch for my next blog post to see how I deal with this.)

4.  Lack of transition. In my current pages, I noticed an area that felt like it went from one topic to another too abruptly. I noted it, and when I get into the changes, I’ll see how I can add more transitions.

5. Sections where I need to expand an idea or build out a scene or storyline. After letting the manuscript sit, it’s much easier to see where I can add or expand. It’s easier to notice where something may be be missing or where I can add additional sensory details that will draw the reader into the story world.

6. Anything that feels “off.” This is something you know when you see it but you may not know at that moment what the problem is. As you read, if you see anything that just doesn’t “feel” quite right, mark it. It might be a sentence that needs to be revised or smoothed out, or it could be a sign of something more. When you go in to make detailed changes, examine it and ask why it bothers you. If you don’t have an immediate answer, try freewriting about it to figure out if there’s anything you need to build out or add.

7. Dates, names, or anything else I need to confirm. I circle these and note “Fact check.”

Once I’ve made my pass through the pages, I have a concrete plan of action that will bring my manuscript one step closer to being finished.

In my next post, I’ll share revision tips you can add to your writer’s kit.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is great. I know editing can seem like routine, but having a checklist can definitely help those who are new to writing and editing. Thanks for sharing these tips.

    February 7, 2013
    • So glad you found it useful! Revising can be a daunting task…I’m always looking for ways to make it manageable.

      February 7, 2013
  2. Aceness, you’re exactly right. I can’t wait to get to the editing stage. In my draft it’s so raw, I know it’s not my best work and it hurts to keep going and leave it as it is. But I know I need to get the draft finished then I can really get stuck in. The editing is going to be a huge task. Thanks for these tips, they will help when I get to it. I also hope to give it to a couple of other people to read. I think the writer is too close to their work to do all the editing themselves. Another pair of eyes is needed to call up plot holes, inconsitancies or unlear passages that the writer may not see.

    Thank you for the tips. Hopefully I’ll be able to utilise them soon

    February 8, 2013

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