Skip to main content

The Four-Step Revision Method

Step 1 of Raymond Obstfeld's "4-Step Method" to revising your work.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Revising can be daunting. There's so much to look for—pacing, characterization, plot, theme, style, etc. But don't worry just yet. Novelist Raymond Obstfeld explains how to make the transition from those early drafts that lay down the basic story and characters to the final draft.

In the latest issue of Guide to Writing Fiction Today, Obstfeld explains his four-step method for revisions in detail. Here's a sample:

Step 1: Structure

Goal: Develop a clear and compelling plot.

Trouble Spots: Too passive, talking-head characters; no plot buildup/anticlimactic action.

Remedy: Basically you're looking to see that events are in the right order and that, if they are, the scene builds toward a satisfying climactic payoff.

The passive/talking heads scene occurs when characters are sitting around yammering back and forth without adding any tension to the scene. They're called talking heads because what they're saying seems removed from any sense of characterization.

To find out more about structure and the complete four-step revision method, pick up a copy of Guide to Writing Fiction Today ($6.50).

Raymond Obstfeld is the author of Fiction First Aid ($16.99, pb).

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 609

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a world-building poem.

Writer's Digest Presents podcast image

Writer's Digest Presents: World-Building (Podcast, Episode 5)

In the fifth episode of the Writer's Digest Presents podcast, we talk about world-building in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, including interviews with authors Whitney Hill (fiction) and Jeannine Hall Gailey (poetry).



Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, someone's shown up demanding your narrator's family heirloom.

May Cobb: On Stolen Moments

May Cobb: On Stolen Moments

Author May Cobb discusses offering readers a summer of mayhem with her new novel, My Summer Darlings.

The Time Is Now: Securing First-Hand Accounts of History for Writing Projects

The Time Is Now: Securing First-Hand Accounts of History for Writing Projects

Writer Stephen L. Moore discusses the benefits of having first-hand accounts for historical writing and offers advice on best practices in securing interviews while there’s still time.

From Script

Character Exploration and Development in Television (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with writers, showrunners and more who share a common thread of character exploration and development!

Janet Key: On Letting Your Novel Take Shape

Janet Key: On Letting Your Novel Take Shape

Author Janet Key discusses the experience of letting the novel take shape through the editorial process for her debut novel, Twelfth.

Benjamin Myers: On Fleeting Moments Becoming Finished Novels

Benjamin Myers: On Fleeting Moments Becoming Finished Novels

Award-winning author and journalist Benjamin Myers discusses the out-of-body experience of having the idea for his new novel, The Perfect Golden Circle.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: 7 WDU Courses, a Chat With Ran Walker, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce 7 WDU courses, a chat about flash fiction with Ran Walker, and more!