There’s a saying: writing is rewriting. Since participating in Pitch Wars, I understand that more than ever. It feels like about ninety percent of my time since last fall has been spent revising my novel! (I think my husband would agree.)
I am still far from an expert in revision, but I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredibly smart and talented people (Pitch Wars mentors, my agent) who are revision experts and who pointed out some writing mistakes I was making.
As I dove into revisions of my second book, I found myself using the same tips I got while revising my first book, so I thought I’d put some of them together into a post. It’s by no means the end-all, be-all of revision checklists, but I hope these tips are helpful to other writers.
Purple prose: I have a tendency to write some pretty flowery sentences. In small doses, that can be okay. But too many slow the story down. Hunt these darlings down and kill them. It’s painful, but necessary. The tip that really clicked for me regarding this: If the sentence moves the story forward, keep it. If it doesn’t, cut it.
Stick to the timeline: I never realized how much I love to jump ahead during an exciting part, and then recap. It’s like I felt the need to stick in my very own commercial breaks. Tell your story chronologically, and if you find yourself adding in a scene break/jumping ahead, really think about whether it’s the right decision.
Foreshadowing: I had a habit of essentially telling the reader about something before it happened–it was an attempt at foreshadowing, but what it really did was pull the reader out of the story. Let the reader experience the story.
Simplify: Too often, I’d use: “She started to walk” instead of “she walked.” Likewise, I can’t believe how many times I used: “She was running” instead of “she ran.” It’s a tedious process, but searching your manuscript for “start,” “began” and “was” can make a big difference.
Filter words: Ah, the dreaded filter words…felt, saw, heard, knew, realized, noticed…I’m guilty of using all of them! Search for these and get rid of as many as possible. Same with the word “just.” This is one I struggle with. Search and cut!
There you have it! I hope you found my revision cheat sheet useful. What writing mistakes do you often make? Do you know of any wonderful revision checklists out there that are super helpful? Let’s all help each other through this writing journey.