It would be impossible to catalogue every How To out there about writing, editing, revising, etc. There’s just sooo much good stuff, and a lot of it is contradictory. Some folks swear by a formula approach, others do deep dives into character histories. Maybe you outline. Maybe you fly by the seat of your pants.
There is no one true way. No Writer’s Guild is gonna come knocking on your door demanding you turn in your Writer Card for doing something different.
Forgive the self linking here, but my PW Insta Takeover post has most of my fave book and website resources. One I will highlight here because it’s been one of my biggest helps:
- GMC: Goal Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon
This is old enough it’s out of print and used copies can be expensive if they’re in good shape, but you can get the digital version at a reasonable price.
That said, it’s also old enough it references Mel Gibson as a desirable man. Ooooof. Had to point that out lest someone read this and wonder what the fuck was wrong with me.
Negatives aside, it is still the best thing I’ve found for really dialing into commercial fiction.
Note, I’m including some files here that are not pretty. They’re not particularly aesthetically pleasing. They’re not fancy. But they served me very, very well in learning the ropes of writing, editing, and revising fiction.
I have a love-hate relationship with these. Normally, I’m not a beatsheet person. I use a loose outline based on Romancing the Beat when I’m writing Romance, and that’s kinda it. I only pull out a beatsheet when stuff ain’t working. But I’m a plantser (half pantser/half plotter).
Honestly, beatsheets confused the living fuck outta me at first. It was a storyboard template that got me understanding how they could help both in drafting, and in revising.
Save the Cat! and Save the Cat! Writes a Novel were my other eye openers. But I was still beating my head into a wall when it came to beatsheets. Then someone broke it all down for me. And I saw different resources online comparing this beatsheet to that beatsheet. And I had an AHA moment.
Here, then, is a beat-by-beat comparison of Romancing the Beat, StC, and Jami Gold’s Romance beatsheets. BTW, Jami Gold’s site is an absolute treasure trove for beatsheets, scene checklists, worksheets, etc.
And if you want something even simpler, maybe storyboarding is your thing. Same concept—use a map of specific story beats to outline the progression of your novel.
Editing & Style
As an editor, stylebooks were my best friends. Most fiction follows the Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS). Most newspapers use the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook. Just about every publisher, from magazines to newspapers, and even books, has their own customization of one stylebook or another. Note I am not even touching on academic, medical, or any other style outside of the two most commonly used for journalism and fiction.
Big surprise that as I started working on editing my own work, and getting my AP-trained brain wrapped around CMoS, I created a style sheet. I had one for every title I edited—because we didn’t have just ONE in-house style. Oh no. That would be too easy. Yeah. Fun.
Some of this stuff may seem overly simplistic. But that’s often what a style sheet is—a simple checklist reminding you of the little things you can often overlook. Do I still refer to this list? Honestly? Rarely these days. But it still lives on my desk. Always.
Putting it all together…
I can hear it now: those beatsheets are great for drafting! And that checklist is all copyediting. But what about revisions?
See, revisions are where beatsheets can really shine! There is nothing better for visualizing where your story might drag a little. If you can’t figure out the beats? Or you seem to be repeating the same beat or sequence of beats? Or spending way too long on one beat? You’ll see that. And then you can take steps to fix that.
And speaking of copyediting…
I have two fave sources for all things grammatical and syntactical. Both are not your average grammar book.
Both are just a tad snarky. And fun. And incredibly useful.
Also check out The Query Question