Make a Plan for Every Scene

This is where the process gets long, but I really promise—especially if you’re new to revising—you will be glad you did this.

By the time you’re done with this lesson, you will have such an intimate knowledge of what you need to change in your manuscript, you might be able to do it without even consulting the cards. (And that, my friends, is the first step toward internalizing this process and becoming an intuitive reviser like I now am!)

Let’s start with your first index card that represents your first scene. If you look at your manuscript + worksheets, you can see exactly what issues are in the scene.

You can also see if the issue is Plot, Character, Setting, or Other—and pick which pen color (or post-it color) you want to use for each issue.

So let’s go back to our ongoing examples, and follow them all the way from manuscript to index card. 

1. Find the problem in the manuscript.

Let’s say in scene 1 you have an issue on page 7 that you describe in your other worksheet as:

  • This feels boring and slow. Pacing problem?

However, through the course of creating your Master List of Problems, you decided that issue was actually tied to the lack of a desperate desire for your main character.

2. Consult the Master List of Solutions.

After brainstorming with a friend, you came up with the solution to raise the stakes by adding a literal ticking bomb the main character, Hannah, desperately needs to rewire.

Since a bomb is a story element (versus a character change or world building detail), then you consider this a “plot” solution on your Master List of Solutions.

3. Add the solutions to the scene card.

Now that you’ve found your solution, you will write it in the corresponding color on your scene 1 index card:

  • Introduce the ticking bomb here!

Since I like to make plot blue, I would write that note in a blue pen!

Maybe you’ve also decided to add a sister that will die if the bomb goes off. You’ve put this on your Master List of Solutions as a Character fix. So you add in (insert your color here—I like purple) to the index card:

  • Introduce the sister, Iris.

And hey, since you’re really wanting to do a lot in this opening scene, you also decide to include a note on the card that says:

  • Hint at complicated backstory between Hannah and Iris that will later explain why the main character is so angry her sister is in this position with the ticking bomb

That’s a lot to write, so why don’t you get out a purple post-it and stick it on the scene card instead of cramming it on the card in purple pen?

Now you’ve reached the end of your list of problems and solutions for scene #1, so…

An example of a scene card for Screechers with my Plan of Attack notes added to the card
An example of a scene card for Screechers with my Plan of Attack notes added to the card

4. Move on to the next scene.

Take steps 1-3 and do them for every single scene in your index card stack. To remind you, the steps are:

  1. Consult the manuscript and the worksheets for the problem.
  2. Check your Master List of Solutions for the story fix.
  3. Crite all the fixes needed for that scene in color-coded pens or post-its on the index card.

I am well aware that this doesn’t sound particularly exciting, and yes, it’s a long, long process. Especially if your book is a big one! But going through every scene like this will allow you to know exactly what you must do to fix your story when you actually revise.

You won’t have to second guess in the next lesson. You’ll be ready, organized, and intimately familiar with all the fixes your story needs.