It can be tricky to self-edit a scene to make sure it’s working, so here’s a handy revision checklist for editing your novels, with 14 things to focus on or check. Each of these are useful tricks to improve a slow or plodding scene that you like but just isn’t dramatic enough to keep momentum. Watch the video for a full-walkthrough!

  1. What happens
  2. Motivation (what do the characters need/want and why). The most pressing thing replaces the big thing
  3. What’s stopping them? Opposition: 3 hurdles/obstacles.
  4. Reaction, synthesis, action
  5. Change or Reveal (action or new info)
  6. Pause for effect
  7. End scene with unresolved conflict (cliffhanger)
  8. Promise of the premise
  9. Real stakes vs fake stakes
  10. 3x conflict (light the fuse – two irresolvable opposites that create friction
  11. Tension (pull the string) unresolved story questions or red herrings
  12. Snapshot (picture it)
  13. Momentum (urgency) – why does this have to happen NOW
  14. Relevancy: does this matter to the REAL story conflict or quest?

Things to flag or check

  • “Can’t picture this” – vivid scene/add scene description
    • Description comes in first instance
  • “nothing is happening” – add conflict, tension or change
    • conflict doesn’t matter if readers don’t know or care about characters
    • confused readers quit
  • “Break up dialogue” add movement and action
  • “confusing transitions” how did they get there, why did they go there
  • “Boring” – characters aren’t facing immediate threat
  • Fake stakes
  • What’s opposing her
  • What’s she/he wearing
  • Repetition (overused words, repeating information readers already know)
  • Consistency/continuity (objects, clothing, hair color etc).