Posted in Tips for Young Writers

How to Make Your Writing Sing Through Editing – Part Two




Welcome to part two of How to Make Your Writing Sing Through Editing. In Part One we looked at how to work on your narration and character. Now we’ll look at scenes and do a final polish.

So, at this point you’ll be feeling pretty comfortable with how your narration sounds, the tense you’ve written the story in and the voice of your characters. You’ll also be confident that each of your characters act in a way that is true to them and that they sound distinct from any other characters. Now let’s check your scenes.

  1. Scene Content:

Open up a Excell spreadsheet. Title the first column scene number and the second column scene summary or scene description.

# Scene Description
1 Lachie finds Sam at his graduation party to tell him their father is hurt.
2 Lachie fills Sam in on what’s happened.
3 The boys return home and speak with their mother.
4 Lachie wakes Sam. Their grandmother tells them Paul’s life-support will be turned off.
5 The boys and their grandparents meet Adel at the hospital. Paul’s life support is turned off.

Set the next columns up like this:

Personal Goal Story Goal Internal Conflict External Conflict Personal Stakes Story Stakes

Go through each scene and fill in your spreadsheet as shown below:

Personal Goal Story Goal Internal Conflict External Conflict Personal Stakes Story Stakes
Enjoy party Needs to go home Miss party
Get info. Something doesn’t make sense Lachie doesn’t know everything Doesn’t know everything
Go with Mum Mum doesn’t want him to. Can’t protect Mum
Want’s dad to live. Life-support will be shut-off Dad will die.
Say goodbye to Dad

This helps you to clarify what the character is trying achieve in each scene, what is getting in his way and whether or not he overcomes it. (Or her, obviously. These examples are from my revisions of All My Father’s Secrets and my protagonist is a 17-year-old boy).

If any of your scenes don’t have some sort of goal, conflict and stake then they’ll need to be cut or rewritten. There’s no room for dead words.

For example, an original scene in my manuscript was of Sam and his family at the funeral home and a there was a disagreement between Sam’s nan and his brother Lachie about doing a eulogy. In the original, Sam is basically a spectator and then he offers to do the eulogy. There was no goal, no conflict and no stakes. I rewrote the scene to show Sam worrying about tension between his brother and Nan and wanting to ease it (personal goal) but made it clear that he’s nervous about public speaking (internal conflict). However he offers to do the eulogy because otherwise his dad won’t be honoured (personal stake).

2. Scene Purpose

Each scene must also have a purpose, otherwise it’s just taking up space. To do this I use the spreadsheet designed by Jami Gold. They’re extremely  useful and comprehensive. Because they’re not my original work I won’t copy them here but I strongly encourage you to check out the links below:

The point of this step is to ensure that each scene as at lease three of the essential elements that make a good scene. It doesn’t need to have all the elements but if it has fewer than three it might be a weak scene and you’ll either need to cut it or rewrite it.


The final step is to polish your manuscript. Print it out (Last time, I promise) and read it out loud. This way you’ll pick up missing words and misspelled words. Don’t just rely on spell check to pick up misspellings. If spelling isn’t your thing (and it’s not mine) get someone else to read through your work and high-light the spelling mistakes.


This is a lot of information and editing your work is a big task but if you follow these steps it will be easier. To make it easier still, check out my infographic below. Print it out, keep it close and make your work the best it can be.



Edit in 6 Steps



I'm an educator, mum and wife living in beautiful Victoria, Australia. I make learning resources for passionate, but time-poor, teachers in need of a better work-life balance. I'm a voracious reader, love a good curry, and believe life is always better with chocolate.

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