Revisions: The Tough Questions

By: Roxanne St. Claire

Hello, fellow writers. Welcome to month five of my twelve-step revision course. Over the past four months, we’ve tackled the easy stuff. (Not that anything about revising a manuscript is easy!) Once you’ve handled the quick fixes I described in early articles, it’s time to take a harder look at your scene. I have developed a list of ten tough questions to ask yourself after you finish every scene. This month, we’ll look at five of them and finish the questions next month.

What does the character want when the scene starts, and how are things worse when it ends? In every scene, the main character (mostly likely the point-of-view character) needs to have a goal. It can be huge (save a life) or mundane (get across the room without talking to someone) or psychological (change another character’s mind). Whatever it is, you need to know that goal before you start writing, and the reader should recognize what it is a few lines into the scene. By the end of the scene, one of two things should have happened: (1) the goal was accomplished and that presents a whole new problem, or (2) the character failed and that sends things even further south. Either way, things need to get worse before they get better.

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