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    Revising Your Draft? Use a Reverse Outline

    One of the critical stages of writing a book comes when the first draft is done. You as an author need to move from the creation of the manuscript to revision. You probably had an outline to guide you as you created your draft, but there are almost always unplanned changes as you write. You add an idea, a story or a detail that wasn’t in the outline. It’s time to ask yourself if what you’ve actually written effectively conveys the ideas you wanted to develop when you originally conceived you plan for the book. A reverse outline is a tool to guide you in revising your draft by looking at what you have written.

    A reverse outline lists the main topic, subtopics and details you have included. Any outline form – the traditional roman numerals and capital letters, bulleted lists or whatever form you prefer – works. With a book length manuscript it is best to do a separate outline for each section or chapter so that you don’t get overwhelmed by the size of the manuscript. It is important to make sure that everything you have written is included in your reverse outline.

    When you have completed the reverse outline you can use to to analyze your draft. Some of the things it will help you see include:

    • Is the book’s purpose and major point clearly expressed?
    • Does what you have written clearly reflect what you
    • Does the draft stay on topic – focused on the main point or sub point being developed or are there digressions?
    • Is the draft coherent?
    • Is the order in which you present sub points and details logical and effective?

    The analysis of you draft will help you plan the revisions Working with your reverse outline decide whether there are sections which:

    • Require additional detail to make your point effectively
    • Are repetitious and should be cut to improve the books flow
    • Are digressions not relevant to the book’s progression which should be cut?
    • Might a sub point be more effective if is moved to combine with another point or moved to separate a sub point into two points?

    When you have decided about these questions, you can return to the draft and make the revisions you have determined are needed to improve the manuscript. The result will be a clearer and more effective draft.

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