Saturday, September 12, 2009

Manuscript Makeovers

Today I’m going to be speaking at a Children’s Writing Conference at the brand new Boulder Barnes & Noble store. I’ll be speaking in the first session, from 10-11, on the topic, “Good to Great: Manuscript Makeovers”; I’ll use examples of my own revision process to show how I take each book through multiple drafts until it reaches its final, published form. Here are some of the guidelines for revision that I’ll be sharing with my audience (if I have any audience! – if you live in Boulder and read this before 10 this morning, come!).

1. Is it clear what this book is about? Is the theme developed unambiguously and clearly stated?

2. Do I have a sympathetic and likeable protagonist?

3. Does my main character have both strengths and weaknesses?

4. Does my main character grow and change?

5. Does my character’s change come from within? Does he or she change for the right reasons?

6. Have I paced my main character’s growth appropriately?

7. Do I need every character?

8. Have I made every character interesting and three-dimensional? Even the adults? Even the villains?

9. Do my characters act consistently in character? Have I been true to my own presentation of my characters?

10. Does all the action of the book serve a purpose? Do I have any story lines that don’t end up going anywhere?

11. Have I begun at the beginning with an inciting incident? “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

12. Is my first chapter truly “socko”?

13. Is my ending completely satisfying, even if not completely happy?

14. Is there some point where the reader will get tears in her eyes?

15. Is point of view handled consistently and effectively?

16. Are main events adequately foreshadowed?

17. Have I “dropped the ball” anywhere? Have any story lines or characters disappeared too long from sight?

18. Have any crucial scenes happened offstage rather than in real time?

19. Have I given memorable and sparkling details?

I know I don’t do succeed on each of these dimensions in every book, but these are at least the questions I ask myself.


  1. Great guidelines for a revision! I'm printing and saving in my Tips file. Thanks!

  2. Now I know why everything you write is so memorable. Thanks for these excellent tips, Claudia.