Six Tips in the Art of Revision

Rewriting becomes addictive.  Newbery winning author Lois Lowry says she can’t read any of her published books with a pen in her hand or she’ll start naturally editing them. 

When my son brought home teacher letters from school I’d find myself editing their words. 

So what should you look for in your revision process?  

1.  Ask yourself, is there enough reason for the reader to turn the page?  Enough suspense, emotion, or unanswered questions?  Can you begin with less explanation or more drama and conflict?

2.  Does each and every word need to be there?  Does it propel the plot forward?  Show character depth? 

3.  Your character dialogue should show tension, character and/or emotion.  If your characters are just talking to talk, cut their words.  Every line they say should have a meaning – – or even a double meaning.  They might say one thing while having a secondary agenda or thought. 

4.  Read your story like you’ve never seen it before.  Are you showing and not telling?  Are there senses and specific details?  How can you incorporate these?

5.  If you are stuck in your rewriting, call in a trusted writing friend or critique group. 

6.  Put your work away for a while.  Time may be your best friend.  Looking at your piece with fresh eyes sometimes is the best possible revision advice there is. 

Writing Prompt: 

1.  Change weak verbs in your manuscript to active verbs.   

2.  Read or re-read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style for reminders of how to write “tight.”  Get rid of any unnecessary words that simply take up space.  How short can you make your manuscript and retain the meaning?

3.  Purge your manuscript of adverbs when possible.  The same if you’ve piled on too many adjectives.  You don’t want to be accused of over-writing.

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