Write to Revise: My WIP Checklist

This week, I started the second revision of my WIP novel Hell to Play. This is the big revision/rewrite before I start shopping it around, and it will be driven by the comments and notes from my three excellent critique partners (bless you, you wonderful people). Anyway, I thought I’d talk a bit about what this revision will focus on because I suspect my issues are issues for a lot of folks. Let’s dive in.

  1. Pacing. The consensus of my critique partners is that the first 100 pages of the novel are well-paced, exciting, and suspenseful, and then the middle drags. Now, middles are always a pain in the ass, and for me that usually come down to one thing. I get real fucking talky in the second act. I generally tell my stories with lots of dialogue, but I can overdo it, and I definitely did here. There are conversations that go on too long or are just not needed, and they kill the pacing. So I’ll be cutting and shortening those sections, I expect to cut a good 5,000 to 10,000 words here (I’ll make it up later, though).
  2. Character arc/background. My novel features two principal characters and two POVs. The general consensus is one character is fun, well-developed, and features an intriguing backstory. His arc is also clear and satisfying. The second character? Well, uh, she needs some work. Right now, she’s kinda one note, and her background is not as strong as it should be, nor is her arc. The fixes for this are to add more of her backstory into the plot and adjust her relationships and dialogue with other characters. I can see in my head how her backstory and arc are supposed to be, but I dropped the ball in the execution.
  3. Villain motivations. They could use some development to make my bad guy a more complete character. The main remedy for this is to add some chapters from his POV. I’m actually looking forward to that, as he’s a millennia-old demon, and that’s some fun shit to write about. His chapters will also help the pacing in the middle of the book, give us some much-needed changes of location (another, smaller issue in the novel) and move the plot along in interesting ways.
  4. World-building. The magic system in Hell to Play is based on real-world occult and demonology, and I glossed over how a few things work, leaving my readers with some questions.  This is probably the easiest of the four big issues I need to tackle because it doesn’t take too much to add this kind of detail to a story. The trick, as always, will be to avoid heavy handed exposition, but there are plenty of opportunities to show how things work in action.
  5. Tightening and polishing . Of course, I’m also tightening the prose as I go along and, good lord, removing so much redundancy. There are times where it’s obvious I’m worried a reader won’t get what I’m trying to say, and I’ll repeat the same damn thing over and over. Nuking those from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure).

I’m four chapters in at the moment, and things are going well. I’ve cut about 1,000 words of extraneous, redundant nonsense, and I feel pretty good about novel’s opening act. Now to make the middle and end match up. 🙂


Working on a revisions? Tell me how it’s going in the comments. I’d love to hear how you’re tackling your own trouble spots/

One Comment on “Write to Revise: My WIP Checklist

  1. > and adjust her relationships … with other characters.

    Prima facie, this seems a bit sexist and cliched to me. Now, I don’t know anything about the book or the character beyond what you’ve shared but it is a sexist cliche that women are defined by their relationships (principally family) rather than their actions. And please can the backstory. Obvious filler is obvious filler. Show, don’t tell. Have her do stuff rather than be stuff. Maybe that means that you have to start the book’s plot earlier and reorganise the chapters. So be it.

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