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Posts tagged ‘revision’

Discover the power of word choice

Whether you’re writing prose or poetry, word choice is paramount. The words you choose determine where the emphasis is placed in your line or sentence and, thus, where you draw your reader’s attention.

In honor of National Poetry Month I’ll use a few of my poems as examples of the difference a word can make.

From my poem “Suppose someday I say hot springs:”



will I remember our hike up Sol Duc,
how we riffed fingers over silk moss,
how we stepped stone to stone
over the creek that crossed our path,
how we posed for a photo on the rickety
footbridge dwarfed by fir and red cedar?


will I remember our hike up Sol Duc,
how we riffed fingers over silk moss,
how we stepped stone to stone
over the creek that crossed our path,
how we posed for a photo on the rickety
footbridge under fir and red cedar?

As you can see, I changed the bolded word “dwarfed” to a simpler word “under” in the revision. Why? Dwarfed is a more unusual and striking word but, because of this, it draws more attention to itself—attention that I don’t want in that particular place.

My first choice draws my reader’s attention to the footbridge while the revision places the emphasis more on the “we” of the stanza and the trees—which is where I want it. Read more

What are your writing quirks?

As an editor, I’ve found that all writers — including me — have patterns of writing that I have to fix during editing. Over time, you learn some of your own quirks. But when you work on the same piece of writing day in day out, you get too close to your sentences to spot everything.

That’s when other writers who come to your work with a fresh perspective are invaluable.

I met with my writer’s group yesterday and feedback revealed overused and unnecessary words, repeated phrases or sentences left over from when I moved sections around, and passive writing that I missed when I read my manuscript for the umpteenth time.

At a certain point, it’s impossible to effectively edit our own work. Our brains glaze over.

If you start figuring out these patterns (with a little help from your friends), you’ll become a better writer. You’ll be more effective at self-editing because you’ll have a new level of awareness. Read more

Critique your manuscript with this checklist

For me, revising a manuscript is like putting a puzzle together — making all the pieces click into the right places. But without a plan, it can be overwhelming.

You’ll find many ways to approach revisions depending on the phase you’re at in the process. Below, I’ve offered tips I’m following as I revise my current work in progress. Maybe, they’ll help you too.

First, I print out a double-spaced copy and take a pass through it, noting where I’ll go back and make detailed changes. This is what I look for:

1. Awkward sentences, phrases. Note with an “AWK” in the margin and circle the sentence or phrase.

2. Vague or wrong words. These could be places where another word would be better or I want to get more specific. Common changes here include the word “some,” non-specific descriptors, such as “beautiful,” and places where I should show instead of tell. Read more

Get a burst of writing energy from three of my favorite posts

One of my favorite things about writing this blog is how much I learn from it. As the year winds down, I thought I’d share several posts that were particularly energizing.

I discovered an interview online that led me to write, Improve your writing craft with this assignment from author Ray Bradbury. I’ve amped up my reading practice due to his advice. Read more

Three posts to help you revise your writing

Having recently finished NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I’m beginning to revise some of my 50,000 words. Below are three of my favorites posts about revision techniques and strategies. As I continue to work on my story, I find it helpful to keep these tips in mind. I hope you find them useful as well:

Two Steps to Stronger Verbs shows how to make your verbs stronger, which will make your stories and poetry stronger.

Four Ways to Revise Scenes helps examine scenes for these four key elements.

Edit Out Literary Throat Clearing to Make Your Work Stronger is a post about eliminating empty words or phrases in your writing.

Ready to revise? Move forward with these two posts

If you’ve written a draft and are now ready to jump into revisions, Wise Ink (@Wiseink) reveals a road map in At First Draft: The 6 (Minimum) Steps to Revising Your Manuscript before Submission.

At the blog YA Stands, Rachel Russell (@RachelxRussell) wrote Fisticuffing Revisions Into Submissions, about her process for revising her manuscript.

What’s your approach to revisions?

The Editing Games, part 2

In my previous post introducing The Editing Games, I blogged about how I turned my most recent editing experience into a series of games to keep myself motivated.

Below are two more games I play to keep myself amused and on track. I hope you find them useful:

Game # 3: The Verb Game

After I’m done editing for story and characterization–when I think I’ve got the words in the right order on the page–I play the verb game. I take a chapter at a time (doing this while on the treadmill or elliptical machine is a great way to multi-task) and highlight each and every verb. Then I look at each highlighted word to see if there’s a better, stronger or more precise verb that I could use.

This game will do two things: 1) help make your story stronger and 2) train your brain for the future. If you really do this, you’ll be surprised at how your brain will begin to come up with stronger verbs the first time around.

Game # 4: The Repetition Game

I have a running outline of my chapters to keep track of certain things like plot, themes, character traits, and symbols or objects. If I’m repeating something for a reason–say a character trait like one character’s nervous goat laugh or an object like another character’s jet black toupee–I list this in my outline and make sure that I repeat this trait or object several times during the course of the story. I may even change the trait or object slightly to show growth of the character or a change of mood.

These repetitions can become threads to keep your story cohesive or lend resonance to your manuscript. Just remember: too many repetitions make the reader feel like they’re being harangued and too few repetitions will leave the reader in the dark. In my 300-page manuscript I typically repeat my threads a minimum of three times and usually more like five to six times as long as it doesn’t feel overdone.

What editing techniques or tricks do you use to keep yourself on target?