How to Use the Worksheets

First: Start reading your printed manuscript (or begin listening!).

As you read and notice problems, simply mark the margin of your manuscript with a number. Then go to the corresponding worksheet and explain the issue you have found.

So for example: Let’s say you find a gaping plot hole on page 13 of your first chapter. It’s the third plot problem you’ve spotted so far. On page 13 of your manuscript, you’ll use a blue pen (for plot) to write P –  3 in the margin.

Then on your Plot Worksheet, you’ll write the page number in the left column (p.13 in this instance). And in the right column, you’ll write the problem # (P-3, in this instance).

Lastly, you’ll describe the problem you found in your plot.

(For those of you who are listening, you will have to track this in whatever way works best for you!)

But how do I know what’s broken, Sooz?

I fear this question is way, way beyond the scope of this course. However, I do go into significant detail in my How I Write a Novel Course on the various parts of a story, as well as in my many blog posts and newsletters. And of course, I continue to put out content in my Substack on plot, character, setting, and beyond.

If you really want a deep dive on revising, I highly recommend Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel course. It’s quite expensive, but it taught me more than any other course on craft when I was a beginner. In fact, I used it for my novel Something Strange & Deadly, and I transformed that book from a total mess into a book that got me an agent and my first book deal!

 Some example issues that you might see are: 

  • A character acting out of character or making choices for the sake of the plot.
  • A character whose goal doesn’t feel real or desperate enough to propel their choices.
  • A plot twist that isn’t foreshadowed enough—or is signaled too strongly!
  • Too much telling, not enough showing and deep POV.
  • Confusing action or pacing that is too slow/quick.
  • And beyond! (So…so much beyond!)

Here’s a visual example to show you what I mean with the worksheets and manuscript: