As part of our approach to the revision process, my students and I developed a sort of checklist, expanding on one in Writing Fiction, that may help some people with rewrites. These are the questions we finally decided on as being the most useful:
- Is the story original? If it’s modeled on another story, does it depart from the source significantly enough that it becomes its own story, hence keeping you out of trouble?
- Does the story begin at the right point? Too early? Too late?
- Do the order of events and the overall structure work for the narrative?
- Is the voice consistent? If not, is there a good reason for the inconsistency?
- Do we learn enough about the characters to believe their actions? Do we learn too much, so that we’re lost in backstory or unsurprised by what takes place?
- Do we need all the characters? Conversely, do we need a character that isn’t in the story?
- Have I made good decisions about what to put in summary and what to put in dialogue?
- Does the dialogue do more than one thing at a time, rather than simply describing business? Does it reveal character and motivation? Is the subtext rich?
- Is the story long enough to fully convey its heart, its central action? If things seem to be missing, what are they?
- By contrast, is it too long? Is there fat that can be cut?
- If there is ambiguity, does it successfully entice the reader, or is it simply confusing?
- In a similar vein, have I withheld information successfully, in a way that engages the reader, or have I simply muddied the waters?
- Is the language clean and spare? If it isn’t, does this serve your purposes?
- Do metaphors and similes serve the story and reflect the characters’ POVs, or are they gaudy and ornamental?