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I’m a huge believer in having as many self-editing tools as possible, and this is one of my favorites.

Each scene in our manuscript needs to count. Each scene needs to move the story forward, give the reader new information, and help your reader to experience the story.

Every time I give you writing advice, or process advice, I urge you to test it out, but also, to make it your own. I start most writing or editing sessions with a drink and a snack–I’m a kindergartner at heart.

So. Now that I have my munchies, I lie on my stomach, pull out a pen I like to use (today that pen happens to be purple) and start at the beginning of my novel. Laptop resting off to the left, notepad to the right (me being right-handed and all).

For each scene, I write down – WHAT DO I LEARN? And then, in very simple terms, what I learned.

Next I write – HOW DOES THIS PROPEL MY STORY FORWARD? And then another very simple sentence, or bullet points, on how this pushes the plot forward.

OK. Actually. I don’t like writing longhand so I just write LEARN: and then PROPEL: And it looks like this:


There are times when I realize that good information is given, but the propellant is weak.

There are other times when I realize that nothing new is revealed, so that propellant needs to be used somewhere else.

Sometimes I realize that I’ve learned the same thing twice. A reminder is okay, but not a re-learn.

By default, the propellant and the info should be related–meaning, they either need to work together, or work against each other.

Sometimes I make notes in my notebook as to how things need to change. More often in comments throughout my MS. I don’t change yet, I just plan the change…

Then, I think: How do I want my reader to feel? And have I created that experience, or am I telling them what to experience? (Hint: Always create the experience).

And then after a workout, or cleaning part of my house, or taking a day or a week to sort the story and its needs out in my mind, I start at the beginning and tweak the parts that need tweaking.

This is the simplest way to make sure that each scene is earning its place in your manuscript.

Happy Editing!

~ Jo

If you want to share a favorite revising tool, PLEASE DO! We can always use more ideas to try.

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