by Robert Lee Brewer
Around the end of last month, I posted about the importance of revision, but I didn't really share any revision techniques. This post should help remedy that deficiency.
All writers have their own writing strengths and weaknesses. For instance, I tend to use the word "that" too often in my first drafts. As a result, I look for ways to remove "that" from my writing more than about any other word.
Here are some other big revision tips for writers:
- Revise big stuff first, make small edits later. This doesn't mean you should not correct obvious typos and grammar errors as you notice them. However, you shouldn't be actively tinkering with word choice until after you've nailed down the structure of your piece. To make this process much easier, I recommend using an outline for your fiction and nonfiction.
- Put the manuscript down and walk away. Writers need at least a little distance from their manuscripts before jumping into revision. Sometimes it takes a good night's sleep or a weekend-long vacation. Some writers require months of separation before they can look at a manuscript with fresh (and hopefully objective) eyes.
- Scan the whole manuscript without reading. I recommend doing this at the beginning and at the ending of the revision process. Scanning can make big problems more obvious that a writer might not notice when reading closely. For instance, maybe most sections are the same general length--except for one section that is significantly longer or shorter than the rest.
- Read carefully. Take your time and read every word. Then, read it out loud too. This will help you catch obvious errors. In particular, pay attention to transitions from paragraph to paragraph, scene to scene, stanza to stanza, etc. Check for repetition and consistency.
- Look for ways to be more concise with your language. Can you turn a 15-word sentence into a 8-word sentence? Can you turn an 8-sentence paragraph into a 5-sentence paragraph? And so on. Less almost always means more for the reader.