Shelley Widhalm

Pain-Free Revision

In 52 Writing Topics, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on October 7, 2012 at 11:00 am

This is my least favorite part of the writing process and the part that requires the most discipline.

It’s revision.

I wouldn’t mind if revision involved reading over what you wrote once, but it takes many reads – and by the time you read your work the sixth time around, you can figure out the ending.

I’ve revised many of my works and still find achieving that objective eye a challenge.

Revising with some objectivity, as well as subjectivity, is a multi-step process that requires several steps and a few tricks.

Writers vary in how they revise their work, but I like to give a first read through for obvious errors in spelling and grammar, words that are missing or misused, and sentence structure that is awkward or clumsy.

I like to ask if the overall story make sense. Is there enough at stake in the plot? Are there any boring parts or parts that are over-explained?

Are there areas that are exciting, but feel too rushed?

Does the story end, or simply drop off, because the concluding pages were rushed or forced?

Are the characters well-developed, and do they seem real not two-dimensional?

In additional reads, I find it helpful to find the areas that need more detail or explanation. I remove unnecessary backstory and any passages that slow the pace. Doing this allows the characters and the conflict to be more evident.

Also when editing, I recommend:

  • Looking for needless repetitions, awkward transitions and poor word choice.
  • Cutting unnecessary words, sentences and even scenes that do not move the story forward or clutter what you’re trying to say.
  • Using the active voice whenever you can.
  • Varying the sentence structures, so that not every sentence reads subject-verb-object.
  • Getting rid of clichés, unless used for a specific purpose or as a character trait.
  • Writing visually and making sure some or all of the senses are used, including sight, sound, touch, hearing and taste.
  • Tightening the dialogue, cutting unnecessary conversation fillers like, “How are you doing?” and areas where conversation seems to repeat.

And most importantly, make sure your showing and only telling when necessary.

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  1. This is where i hit the wall. Not disciplined enough to revise, i just plow through to the next incomplete thought. Need to work on that, huh? Freat column w/lots of food for thought. Thanks!

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