Using a Revision Grid to Break A Story Down Into Elements

May 30, 2019 | Novels, Picture Books

Thanks to Harold Underdown for this blog post! Harold is co-faculty with Eileen Robinson for our Revision Retreat workshop.

Get a Fresh View of Your Finished Draft

A key challenge when revising a manuscript of any kind is finding a way to see it fresh. After all, you’ve done your best to create a good manuscript. When you’re done, it’s hard to see it objectively, and yet you need to.

If you don’t have a critique group at hand, it can be very useful to put your story in a different form, which can reveal problems that may not be apparent when you just read over the manuscript. One technique that we have found very useful, and which we teach at our Revision Retreat and in online workshops, is the revision grid.

Use the Revision Grid With Any Kind of Manuscript

The revision grid breaks a story down into as many elements as you want to look at, with each row focusing on a scene, and each column on an element of that scene–such as where it takes place, what characters are involved, key events, what type of scene it is, and so on. The grid is very flexible–it can used with any kind of manuscript, and you can adjust what you include or leave out easily.

But to understand how to create one, seeing a demonstration is probably best, so here are two videos.

This first video introduces the revision grid and offers some examples:

The second video walks you through creating a grid based on the first two chapters of Gail Carson Levine’s Dave at Night. Even though this is an example using a novel, you can use the technique with any kind of manuscript:

Handouts to Create Your Own Revision Grid

If you want to create your own grid with a manuscript, or to try creating one for Dave at Night before watching the video, here are some handouts:

  • A revision grid template you can adapt to any manuscript: MS Word   PDF
  • A revision grid template you can use with Dave at Night: MS Word   PDF
  • And a completed revision grid for Dave at Night: MS Word   PDF

We hope you find this technique useful, and hope you’ll join us at the Revision Retreat to try your hand at creating one.

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