Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Cyclist in the Snow by Alan Lowndes --1921 - 1978 Potholes aren’t usually a problem here in Matthews, North Carolina.

That’s because we’ve been in a drought for years--there wasn’t any moisture on the roads to cause any potholes.

Now, of course, we’re caught in some crazy monsoon pattern and my simple suburban drive to the store is now a treacherous route embedded with potholes that seem to reach down to China. And somehow, I never realize they’re there until I’m in one.

My first drafts are just as susceptible to potholes.

Things I look out for when revising:

Character Issues: Are there any secondary characters that need more depth? Are the characters all clearly different from each other? Do they have realistic motivation? Do they stay in character?

Plot issues: Is the plot fairly linear? Does it make sense?

Conflict: Is the conflict strong enough to power the plot? Is the conflict major or is it just a minor misunderstanding that could easily be resolved? Is there both internal and external conflict?

Scenes: Are they necessary? Do the scenes impact the main plot or the subplot?

Mechanics: Check for word repetition (I know my favorite words that need to be cut.) I read aloud for sentence and word flow. Is something awkwardly constructed? I look for typos and spelling. Are the dialogue tags okay? (For me this means I might not have enough tags to attribute the speaker. For others it might mean that tags or adverbs should be cut.)

Pace: Is the story moving fast enough? Too fast?

Voice: Did I maintain it? Are there sections that sound flat?

Beginnings and endings: Will the beginning hook readers? Is the ending satisfying and have I tied up all the loose ends?

Timeline errors: Are the events of the story in order?

Continuity errors: Is someone wearing one outfit at the beginning of the scene and something different by the end of the scene (without changing clothes?) Does it change from day to night and back again in the course of a page?

One more thing about the potholes here in Matthews. They’re allowed to happen. There’s no road crew perched at the side of the road in an asphalt truck, filling holes as they appear.

Instead, the prevailing attitude here seems to be that they wait until the rainy spell is over and then they fill all the holes at once.

Either way, whether they're fixed as they open or after a whole minefield of them has sprung up, the potholes do all get filled.