Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Understanding the Writing Process

eyesI recently read a writing article that touched on the four main stages of writing: Prewriting, First Draft, Revision, and Proofreading. I wasn't surprised to see that the revision section was the longest. Revision means to see again. Revision doesn't mean to line edit; it means to look at your manuscript with new eyes. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Theme. Try to reduce your story's theme to one sentence. If you can't, it may not be focused enough yet.
  • Favorites. Don't play favorites with your favorite phrases. Try to objectively step away and see if they're really necessary for the story. If not, get rid of them.
  • Characters. Are each of them necessary and relevant to the plot? Can they be combined or even deleted? Are they fleshed out enough, especially the main character?
  • Motivation. Why do your characters act the way they do? Is it arbitrary, or necessary? Character development should naturally flow from a combination of their actions and the plot.
  • Dialogue. Is it full of common words that aren't necessary? Are the words being said actually important and moving the story forward? Can you identify each character by what he is saying?
  • Tags. Replace most of your tags with "said" and "asked." Actions really do speak louder than words. "I can't believe you ruined my lego creations," Shawn sobbed loudly. "Why do you have to be so mean?" he added remorsefully. OR... "I can't believe you ruined my lego creations." Tears fell from Shawn's cheeks. "Why do you have to be so mean?"
  • Verbs. Use strong verbs to keep the action active, not passive. Even in the example above, the tears are being active. I could make the character Shawn more active by simply saying that he cried (not sobbed AND added). It also deleted two adverbs.
  • Show, don't tell. I'm sure whole workshops have been dedicated to this. Simply put, it means show the reader through strong writing of using strong verbs so the reader can actually see the action. Sometimes telling is necessary, but it should be short and have a purpose.
  • Senses. The five senses intensify the experiences of the characters for the reader.
And if this isn't broad enough for your own revision, definitely take a step back and play the what if game!
What is your favorite way to revise?
Keep on keepin' on...


  1. This is a wonderful post. I've copied and pasted it for future reference. I find it hard not to proofread with every pass - I guess it's the English teacher in me. Makes revisions slow and very time wasting in the end. No good having perfected your grammar just to delete huge chunks anyhow.


  2. Oh dear; I wish I had an answer to what's my favourite way to revise. I don't know what I'm doing but I guess I'll learn as I go.

  3. I tend to "proofread" as I go, too. But I don't agonize over every word, just every third word. ;) I guess my favorite way to revise is to let it sit for a few days and just fix the things that don't seem to be working. Even if it does mean that I'll be deleting that section later on. Looking at the big picture in the prewriting stage always helps me.


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