Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The countdown begins!

In the spirit of Christmas and with only twelve days left to this celebration, I wanted to write a checklist that we can use when revising our work (hopefully before we open our gifts). 
1)      Read, read, read! You can get inspired, emulate style, and learn more about your genre by reading someone else’s work.
2)      Read your story aloud.
3)      Have a fellow writer read it.
4)      Strengthen your scenes by being an actor and playing the main character (or any character you may think is weak). Relive the action in your head.
5)      Polish your dialogue; make sure it flows and it’s not contrived.
6)      Check the tone. This means the author’s attitude toward his subject: grave, amused, scientific, intimate, aggrieved, authoritative, whatever.
7)      Make every word count; that means use strong verbs and adjectives.
8)      Keep in mind the story arc. The purpose of a story arc is to move a character or a situation from one state to another.
9)      Let the plot guide the story. A short story must immediately pull the reader out of her world and drop her into the world of the story.
10)  Put your work away for a few days and then come back to it. Tired eyes never see mistakes.
11)  Punctuation is everything, period! Be mindful of your commas, semicolon, and especially those exclamation marks; they’re not Christmas tree ornaments.
12)  Edit, edit, edit! You can never do enough editing. Any good writer knows that editing is at the top of the list, like the star at the top of the tree. 
Do you use a checklist? Are you counting your days to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, or getting published in 2012?


  1. A great checklist! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Awww thank you for these wonderful 12 writerly points to countdown to Christmas!!! Such important reminders - especially for someone as unfocused as me! Yay! HAPPY CHRISTMAS Claudia! Take care

  3. Excellent reminders, Claudia. Is the 12 days thing a blogfest, or your original idea? Hey, you could do a blogfest with that idea! ;)

  4. Great post Claudia!! I will keep this with me as I am working on my novel! I have to admit I am guilty of overusing exclamation points! lol I love them! ;)

  5. Hi Claudia!
    I love your analogy of the countdown to the holidays as similar to the countdown to finalizing a manuscript, and the nuances of checking it twice! Your picture of a tree makes me think about how when we are too close to the trees to see the forest in our writing we miss those little details that mean we can never edit enough. That is why having a writer's group or a writing friend who will lend fresh eyes is so important. And yes, I am counting the days to getting published in 2012! Thank you for the reminder to pay attention to the checklist. Happy Holidays to you and yours and to all writers out there looking for Santa to bring greater punch and polish to their writing!

  6. @ Mish: glad you liked it! :)

    @ Jennifer: Nah! You're not unfocused, you're just busy with other stuff (which is normal). Wishing you a Merry Christmas to you and Charlie! :)

    @ Michelle: Thank you! But it's not a blogfest, unfortunately. Maybe I can organize one in the new year, right?

    @ Cathy: LOL! So you're guilty of overusing exclamation points, huh? This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine used them all over the book she was editing and her boss was not happy about it. :) I know that won't be your case.

    @ Kelly: Awww! Thank you for your wonderful wishes and for sharing your thoughts about editing. Let me know if you get published in 2012. I'll definitely go to your book launch ;)

  7. It's incredible how many things in common writers and actors have! "Read your story aloud", "polish your dialogue", "check the tone"... this is common vocabulary to directors and fellow actors! Not to mention your acting analogy in point 4 about "being an actor and playing the main character"!
    But when the countdown's over, back for a while to our comfort zone!!

  8. Claudia, I had to laugh when I read your response! I swear I almost referenced that Seinfeld episode when I wrote my comment! lol :)

  9. @ Jay,
    Oh, yes! I think the Fine Arts are all related. We can all learn from each other. Playwrights and screenwriters have to know the techniques of writing. Fiction writers can also become involved in film when their books turn into movies. So yes, we're all a big writing network.

    @ Cathy,
    Great minds think alike, Cathy! LOL! ;)

  10. Enjoyed this post--just bopped over here from the Deja Vu blogfest. Yes, reading the story aloud is my Achilles heel, w/kiddos around most of the time! I have to schedule time alone to do it. Somehow, what sounds perfect in my head doesn't always come out written that way! Nice to find you!

  11. Hi Heather,
    Welcome to my blog! Thank you for joining. Glad you liked my latest Christmas themed article ;)
    Even if that's your Achilles heel, you have the will to find time alone, and that's what really counts.
    I'll hop over your place now!

  12. LOL! I love that you said exclamation points aren't Christmas tree ornaments. That one's going to stick with me for awhile.

    Great list. :)

  13. Claudia, great post. You illustrate again why I can't write a blog about writing. It takes a special talent.

  14. Great list. Hope you have a Happy Christmas!

  15. Hi Amy,
    You must be visual like me. Glad you liked my list and you had a chuckle with my reference to exclamation points.

    Hi Mike,
    Aawww, thank you for your kind words. I try. ;)

    Hi Carol,
    Merry Christmas to you, too!

  16. Claudia,
    Thanks for the great tips. I really like the list.

    Merry Christmas!


  17. Hi Doris,
    Glad you liked the tips ;)
    And Merry Christmas to you, too!

  18. Nice articles. I'm just blogwalking and very happy to stop here. And also give you some comment and following your blog here.

    Dont forget to give us some your comment into my blog and following me back too.

  19. Excellent tips, Claudia!
    Thanks for your comment on my poem, "Eretorua". The rest of the poem is underneath the image, aligned to the left. You should be able to see it.
    May your Christmas be writerly. :)

  20. Hi Chris,
    Thanks! I'll go back and visit the magazine to read your poem ;)
    Merry Christmas to you and your family!