Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Revision Techniques from Cheryl Klein

I had the great pleasure of attending a class on revision techniques given by the esteemed Senior Editor, Cheryl Klein from Arthur A. Levine Books (an imprint of Scholastic). Cheryl’s book Second Sight was released earlier this month and it includes her complete list for revision. Her book also includes additional tips and editorial insight.  

Her lesson was divided into three sections, each examining a different aspect of the revision process: vision, examination, and action. I’ve included some the techniques she discussed.


·         Take time off from the project.
·         Write the spine of the story in one sentence (overall action that is accomplished in the book)
·         Write the flap copy – or rather, a 250-word summary that gives away the ending.
·         Make a collage for the book - images that are key to the story.
·         Make a playlist for individual chapters, characters, or the book as a whole.


·         Change the font, then print out and read the entire manuscript on the page before making any revisions.
·         As you read, take notes on both the good stuff and the bad.
·         List the first ten things each significant character says or does (include internal thought for your POV character)
·         Run the plot checklist at
·         Book map the action of the book chapter by chapter/scene by scene. Visit Anita Nolan's site.(
·         Mini-map: for each chapter provide a one-sentence summary of the action and then identify the climax-point of each individual scene. Look for redundancies and lack of action or advancement in these climaxes.


·         Set a deadline for completing each stage of revision, and a reward for each one.
·         Cut as many adverbs, telling uses of the word “feel” or “felt,” non-“said” dialogue tags, and unhelpful “babies” as you possibly can.
·         Check the first line of the book for its hook, and the last lines of every scene and chapter for the intended emotional resonance.
·         Read the book aloud, or better yet, have it read to you.

I believe Cheryl is still in the process of tweeting these revision techniques, so keep your eye out for them. Also, I recommend you purchase her book, because not only will you find the complete list, but you will find a treasure trove of other invaluable information.


Marquita Hockaday said...

Whoa! These are awesome techniques. I really like the one about finding images for the scenes/characters. I also like the one about creating a playlist for every character. I do this for my main characters but I don't bother for the supporting- that's something I need to change. Thanks for the helpful techniques!

Hannah said...

So, SO helpful! Going to have to print this out :)

Alicia Gregoire said...

Bookmarking, printing, keeping this forever.

Pam Harris said...

Fantastic notes! I cannot stress how important it is to take some time away from your WIP before you start revising again.

Jessie Harrell said...

these are great - thanks so much for sharing!!

Michael L. Martin Jr. said...

Thanks for the links and giving me some new ideas. I'm going to try the mini map on my current wip.

I usually take time from a project by starting a new project. And I don't usually come back o the old one until I finish the newest one.

I actually just got finished searching for a song to add to my iTunes playlist. Took a few hours to get it because I had heard it played on TV and didn't know it's title or the artist. Thanks Shazam!

blueeyedadri said...

Thanks Michelle, these are awesome, am purchasing as we speak...
Thank Cheryl.

kellyhashway said...

Wow, this is great! Thank you for sharing.

Brit Hvide said...

This is a really super list! Thanks for sharing! I definitely have done a lot of these for correcting college papers (different font, reading aloud, cutting extraneous adverbs.) It's interesting that you can apply them to writing stories as well! Hopefully this will help me with my novella.

Holly Dodson said...

These are really excellent tips, Michelle! Awesome post!!

Read my books; lose ten pounds! said...

excellent! Thankyou!

cleemckenzie said...

She always has good information. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle Julian said...

I love Shazam too, Michael!

Emy Shin said...

Thank you so much for sharing these awesome techniques with us, Michelle!

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