Writing advice, Writing and Editing

Ten Tips For Revising Your Fiction

Today’s post is another inspired by a workshop at the South Coast Writers Conference I attended last weekend. I cannot express strongly enough how much a writers conference offers, not just in learning new skills and techniques, but in general inspiration. There is no better way to re-charge your creative batteries. But I digress.

Many people have asked me over the years (and I have have asked as many others) just how does one go about revising a work of fiction? What problems do you look for? Are there any tricks to make it easier? The zen answer to that is simple: imagine the finished story and delete everything that doesn’t belong. However, very few of us are zen masters. The rest could make use of some more specific ideas: things to look for, stuff to avoid.

So, with the help of a friendly professional editor: ten tips for effective revision.

1. Read poetry before editing.

It will inspire you to be lyrical, musical, poetic, and original.

2. Find the beginning of the story.

Be a detective. Identify when the action actually begins. Consider cutting everything before then.

3. Experience it, don’t explain it.

Be vivid, be aware, be able to experiment.

4. Be cautious with backstory.

Be in the present story. Find the order and organization, discard the rest.

5. Delete extra descriptors.

Be efficient. Weigh each word and phrase.

6. Remove unnecessary dialogue.

Be concise. Every word needs to advance the story.

7. Vary sentence structure.

Be different. Break patterns. Surprise us.

8. Blast away the cliché.

Be fresh. Take a risk. Be new and original.

9. Have fresh eyes read the story.

Choose a good, honest reader, not a praiseful one.

10. Hide the story from yourself for a while and then read it out loud.

It will tell you what you have actually written, versus what you intended to write.

Coming next week. The Hero’s Journey as revealed in Star Wars.


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