The Marriage of Serious Revision


There is something about revision that I love, always have. Creating a story is fun, and it’s definitely the honeymoon phase of writing. That time when you are in love with the characters and the story, and they are new and exciting. Who doesn’t love that time when every kiss is better than the one before? When that phase is at its best, a writer is in the zone, and it’s pure nirvana.

Revision is the rest of the marriage. Those years that come after. When it’s hard sometimes to like each other. Long term marriage requires dealing with changes in each other that you didn’t expect. Or the boredom of being in a rut. How many more times can I read this same WIP in the hopes of improving it?

Revision, like the rest of the marriage, is hard work. Just like marriage, the pay off is amazing. It’s all in how you approach the work. Luckily, there are many ways to approach revision.

Sentence Level:

Are your sentences choppy or all long? How do you know? If you’re visual, a good way to do this is to get several different colored Highlighters. Select a color for each sentence length(for example):

Purple: Micro – five words or less

Blue: Short – six to ten words

Yellow: Average – eleven to fifteen words

Green: Medium – sixteen to twenty-one words

Orange: Long – anything over twenty-two words

Take your first page of your manuscript and highlight sentences. When you’re done, you’ll have a sense of your sentence preferences. When you write that first draft, sentence style isn’t really on your mind and it shouldn’t be. However, in the revision stages, you need to be deliberate and specific in the choices you make. For instance, save the short and micro sentences for impact. Use them after longer sentences to increase their effect.

The real goal here is for you to change-up your prose so it doesn’t lull the reader to sleep with those long flowing sentences or jar them into a migraine by constant short ones. Sentence level revision is one of the last revisions you do with a WIP. Plot and character issues are first on the agenda with those first several passes. However, it’s always a good exercise just to find out where your style leans. Do you write  short, medium, or long sentences more? Using this exercise with any of your writing can be informative.

Do you have a revision activity you’d like to share?

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4 Comments

Filed under Writing

4 responses to “The Marriage of Serious Revision

  1. Great tips! I’m going to definitely use these, Dawn.

    One of the things I do when rewriting/editing is to assign a color to all five senses and then go through and mark up the descriptive sentences. (Usually, I assign red to the sense of sight) What almost always happens is that I get a sea of red! I know then that I need to provide the other senses to really bring the scene to life.

  2. dawnall

    I do that, too! I use red for smell. I think because I kill people a lot (in my fiction) and blood is such a strong smell. I’m bad about the balancing the senses because I’m also visual. So, my scenes are heavy on sight, too. The highlighting thing forces me upon revision to fix that. 🙂

    Will you be touring with your new books coming out?

  3. Great idea…when I get there it will come in handy!!

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