Happy Friday Readers! I think I might be an anomaly, but I LOVE the revising stage. Getting the actual story details worked out and then onto the page is much harder for me than going through and making the story better. So today: My five favorite revision tips. Enjoy!
One ~ Cut the beginning and end. Leave the middle. Just like with sandwiches and pie, the middle is almost always the best stuff. My very first draft of Forget Me Not was—are you ready for this?—130,000 words. Ridiculous! I was able to cut about 30,000 of those words on my first round of revising because the beginnings and endings of my chapters contained a whole bunch of arbitrary details that were helpful for fleshing out the characters, setting and back story, but had very little bearing on the actual plot. It was super satisfying to highlight and cut huge chunks of random text and paste them into my Outtakes folder because 1) I needed to drop my word count in a serious way and 2) My story was SO MUCH better without all that extra crap! It was after that first major round of revising that my story started to read like an real book. *In case you’re wondering, Forget Me Not is now 79,000 words.
Two ~ When revising, pay careful attention to your favorite parts, the parts you think are clever or funny or really, really good. Those are often the parts you don’t need. My Outtakes folder is full of witty dialogue snippets, gorgeous descriptions, and cute interactions that always make me smile when I read them. It was painful to cut some (okay, a lot) of them, but if I’m being completely honest, they didn’t add to the plot or characterizations. They had to go.
Three ~ Conversely, if you find yourself skimming over certain sections every time you do a read through because they bore you to tears, take a second to seriously consider whether you need those parts. If you do, then find a way to rewrite them in a more dynamic way. If you don’t, cut! If you the author aren’t enthralled by every word of your manuscript, then why in the world would an agent or editor or reader be?
Four ~ The FIND function on your computer is one of the most important tools for revising. My first FIND search was for all words ending in –ly, otherwise known as adverbs. I cut a lot of them, but not all… I like a well-placed adverb here and there. The adverbs I did cut were either unnecessary or redundant. Other FIND searches I ran: seems, just, was, suddenly, pulled (my fabulous critique partner claimed I used that word way too much, and after searching for it, I was alarmed to see that she was very right!), and I love you (because it loses its punch when overstated; Mason and Faith only say the words a few times). I also searched for my characters’ names, especially Mason and Faith, because again, thanks to my critique partner, I discovered I was overusing them.
Five ~ When you think you’re completely done with all revisions, change your font to something drastically different from Times New Roman and read through your entire manuscript again. My eyes and brain were so used to reading Forget Me Not, I’d practically memorized it. Changing the font forced me to slow down and read more carefully, making the little mistakes I’d somehow missed the first thirty-five times jump of the page.