Last week in my blog post about revision tips  I talked about using your Plot diagrams as working drawings. They act kind of like a map – show you whether you’ve stayed focussed on your story or whether you have been sidetracked along the way. I don’t know about you, but I find this pretty easy to do. Sometimes characters seem to take me off on a complete tangent.

Today I’m talking about revising a story that is less structured and has evolved through a more organic process. My MG survival story, GAME ON seemed to develop as scenes in my head. I spent two years travelling around Australia with my husband and very small children so I guess it’s hardly surprising that so much of the landscape is very vivid in my head – as are the hazards of crocodile infested waters, snakes under the car, heat etc.

I knew who my characters were and what they wanted and draft one was complete. But the story more or less came together as episodes which meant that part of the revision process was about turning it into an actual plot – with dramatic tension, something major at stake for the main character, a climax and a resolution.

I started with a number of visual cues from which I developed scenes

1.            The scene where my character finds out they are going on the trip that’s going to leave them stranded in the Australian wilderness (but they don’t know that yet).

2.            The scene where the kids get separated from their parents so they have to now fend for themselves.

3.            Wild camel scene

4.            Dying of thirst scene

5.            Dingo encounter scene

6.            Snake encounter scene

(I know, that’s a lot of adversaries, but seriously, there are a lot of hazards out there in the outback)
Oh, and I wanted to stick a crocodile in there somewhere but I figured that had to come at the end – after they got out of the desert – when they were crossing the river to try and get to Broome.


So this is how the first draft revision happened.

1.            List scenes

2.            Revisit my character

  • Who Is he?
  • What does he really want? (to survive)
  • What is stopping him getting what he wants? Hmm, the snake, the crocodile, the camel, the dingo?
  • How is he going to overcome these obstacles?

3.            Decide on the order of my scenes

I had my inciting incident…I knew what was going to happen to get my main character Jack out of his comfortable house and on his way to the desert. The next step was to decide what would happen there. I needed something to radically change for his situation to get a lot worse – this would be the first turning point – the thing that would take the story in a new direction. This was the thing that would force Jack to confront his opponent (nature) on his own.  This seemed like the logical place to get rid of his parents (not permanently – just for the duration of the book).

I needed a bit of humour to help build the tension, so that meant adding a couple of scenes and then it was on to the midpoint reversal. This was where Jack encountered a problem that would change the entire direction of the story. This is where he realises that he’s not just responsible for his own life, he’s also responsible for his little sister, Flick.

And of course just when he’s starting to get things under control, they have to go badly wrong again, don’t they?

But not as badly wrong as what happens in the climax. Here he has to get his gravely ill sister across crocodile infested waters.

So just by thinking about Jack’s inner conflict, about raising the stakes for him, about making things harder and forcing him to really fight for his survival, I devised my plot – I turned my scenes into a story.

4.            Transition scenes. Now that I knew the order of events in the story I had to look at my transition scenes. Did they still make sense? Were they getting my characters to where I needed them to be? Were they giving the reader enough information? Did they allow the reader into the heart and mind of my main character – so they could feel and understand the full extent of what he was going through?

5.            The ending. When I revised the ending of Game On, I looked at whether things had been resolved for both my character and the reader. Had I tied up all the lose ends for the reader? After experiencing such a harrowing tale of survival, was my character different enough at the end of the book from the city kid who had set out on his holiday looking forward to time off school?


These are just the revisions for draft two. While I’m revising I make a list of things to be done in the next draft. That way I have a checklist to follow…and it can always be added to as I go.

As I mentioned last week, this is just how I do things. Everyone has their own methods. I hope some of this has been helpful to you.

I’d love to hear your tips on how you revise. Feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing and revising:)


  1. Great advice, Dee, as usual. 🙂
    I’m really interested in how a writer can ensure the opponent (the antagonist, the ‘baddie’) in this story is a strong enough foil for the main character/s.
    Especially as in your case, the baddie is not human (like in most stories) but the harsh environment of the outback and everything it has to throw at unsuspecting and unprepared humans who find themselves lost in this extreme.
    This aspect has special significance for me as I’m facing an antagonist that is (or could be) a gypsy curse, and a mountain with a long history (you know what I mean.) 🙂

  2. Hi Sheryl,

    it can be tricky having an antagonist that isn’t a real person, but I think you still have to look at it as another character in your story. That’s the way I have looked at nature in my survival story. There is good and bad in nature. Nature can be kind but cruel. Sometimes, nature seems to have a purpose – a motivation. Will my kids overcome nature’s power or will nature defeat them? I guess part of it too is getting to the crux of what your story is really about. Is the conflict between your main character and the curse or is it between the main character and the whoever issued the curse? Good luck with this tricky dilemma?


  3. Thanks for another great blog, Dee. By the way, what is MG? Maybe I haven’t been concentrating but not sure what type of story that is. Anyhow, I love your diagrams, photos and helpful advice. I am currently working on a short story, 2,500 words, and I think that your advice can be taken for a story of this length also. I began writing by hand, jotting down facts randomly, then try to place these elements into some sort of order. Then I transfer what I have done onto the computer. It’s such an amazing process because once I have done some groundwork, ideas and turning points seem to show up and I’m still waiting for the guts of the plot to show itself – I know it will.

  4. Thanks, Kaye,

    MG is Middle Grade. In Australia, we sometimes call them Older Readers so they are the age group before young adult. Thanks for sharing your experiences on how your short story is coming along. Sounds like an organic way of working that seems to suit a lot of writers better than doing a structured plot first. That’s what I love about writing. So many wonderful stories and books created in so many different ways. Would love to hear more about your story as you progress – especially when and how your plot shows itself.

    Happy writing:)


  5. Dee, I envy your ability to plan so well. I tend to randomly write and let it brew, then write some more. As they say, patience is a virtue and I struggle with that unfortunately. However, if I keep reading your posts and others, it might just rub off.

  6. Thanks, Kaye,

    Randomly writing and letting it brew is absolutely fine if that’s what works for you. I find that I have to at least have some idea of where I am going with the story but every writer works differently. As long as you get from the seed of an idea to the finished story, it doesn’t matter how you get there:)

    Good luck:)


  7. Just had to tell you that I’ve just picked up “Letters to Leonardo” from the library. Read first couple of pages and the voice is so strong. Hope to get into it tonight.

  8. Personally, I think cultivating an ending for a story maybe the trickiest part. When I was writing my book. I thought I was done with my work. But after a while the story and the ending kept changing so much i started to stress the BUCK out! But as time passed, i digressed and soon enough the ending was revealed. I’m sure glad that’s over! haha.

  9. Thanks for sharing your experience, Jonathan,

    I totally agree that endings are very hard and I find that mine tend to change a lot too. I kind of know thematically where my character is heading, but often the practicalities of what happens to them can change many times before I’m happy with the ending. I think I had about eight endings with Letters to Leonardo. I know exactly what you mean about feeling relieved once you finally have an ending:)


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