Monday, March 30, 2015

Writing Tips #5: Nuggets of Wisdom on Editing & Revision

Congratulations to Kathy Weichman who won Beginnings Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress.  Thanks to all of you who contributed to the this series. You can find the previous posts here: Part I and II included General Advice; Part III was on Deep Point of View; and Part IV was on Story Making. 
"During my time as a facilitator of various writing groups, I saw the tendency of overusing the words ‘that’ and ‘was’.
THAT is a word THAT should not be used THAT often. 
It is reasonable to say, eighty percent of that’s are not necessary.

"WAS is another overused word that takes away from the action.  I once had a writing assignment in college where the professor wanted a two thousand word story written without the use of ‘was.'  Almost impossible to do.  Try replacing 'was' with action words or dialogue.  If you use it more than ten times in a two thousand word story, you are abusing the word.   

"Misplacing a comma can turn the meaning of a sentence into something other than intended. Always place a comma before a person’s name when used in dialogue.   

 “Let’s go out and eat Nancy.”
 “Let’s go out and eat, Nancy.”

"In the first example, it looks like Nancy is dinner. 
In the second example, with the comma before Nancy’s name, the meaning isn’t so graphic."  Tommy Styles, short story writer.

"Editing will require you to kill phrases, paragraphs, maybe even entire chapters or characters that you love. Sometimes they’ll be the bits you think are clever and beautiful and certain to be the ones your fans will be quoting and sharing on social media. You must be willing to do it anyway. You must learn to become brutally analytical about your own work. If it doesn’t help the story, it is not necessary. Period."  Shannon Wiersbitzky, author of What Flowers Remember.

"I am beginning an extensive revision and working hard to cut what needs to be cut, but it helps to remember that what is cut doesn't need to be trashed. It can be saved to be used another day. Maybe it won't, but it's easier to cut when I have that mindset." Kathy Cannon Wiechman, author of Like A River.

"When you cutting, words, sentences, paragraphs don't just throw them away. That's too emotional for many of us. Open a "shards" or "discards" file for each WIP and save those cuttings. You'll be able to use them another day in another project." Jean Hall, founder of Write2Ignite.

"Writing and publishing is a long-term pursuit, so don't rush what you are working on, and don't submit before it is polished. Revision is the key to publication." Christine Kohler, author of No Surrender Soldier.
Found on 

"Put away your work for a good while before revising." Rosi Hollenbeck, SCBWI critique group coordinator for Northern and Central California and blogger.

"There comes a time to put down the writing books, the notes from conferences and classes, the "he said she said" telling you what to do or not to do and JUST WRITE THE STORY THAT'S IN YOUR HEART. Sandra Warren, author of Arlie the Alligator.

If you need more inspiration, check out Janice Hardy's month of outstanding at-home revision blogs. Kathy Temean has an excellent list of things not to miss when editing your work. And here are some top editing and proofreading tips from the folks at Romance University.

Finally, here is advice from a fourth-grade teacher; I use this quote whenever I teach writing: 
  "The red pencil is your best friend." 


Jim Padian said...

Use of a red pen or pencil to edit is an emotional lightening bolt for many authors. Use blue or green to soften the impact.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Jim, interesting perspective!

Vijaya said...

Haha, my husband teased his younger sister by asking her how she liked Ralph (the cow) at dinner. She burst into tears.

She's coming to visit us and I'm sure the story will be repeated. Nothing to do with grammar, of course, but your Nancy quote reminded me of Ralph.

Eats Shoots and Leaves is a great book!

Rosi said...

Thanks, Carol, for this series. It has been very useful.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Rosi and Vijaya. Glad you've enjoyed this series and thanks for your contributions. Yes, I almost referenced Eats Shoots and Leaves. FUn book !!

Linda Phillips said...

Thanks for the great tips, Carol. I know what Jim is talking about as far as the red pen goes. As a classroom teacher we were advised to use anything but red!

Carol Baldwin said...

I guess I don't have the negative associations to red that others do! But worth considering, Linda.

Linda A. said...

That was helpful. Revise: These tips rock!

Carol Baldwin said...

Love that you revised your comment, Linda. I do that all the time!

Linda A. said...

I was practicing not using "That" and "was" as Shannon recommended. I'm sure I do use both too much.

Carol Baldwin said...

Yes, Linda. I have to practice not using them both!

Gretchen Griffith said...

Once upon a time I was the fourth grade teacher with the red pencil...okay, without the "was"...As a fourth grade teacher, I too slashed with a red pencil. I also drew smiley faces with the same red pencil. By the end of the year, more smiley faces appeared than slashes.

Carol Baldwin said...

Love this story, Gretchen. Thanks for sharing it!

Sandra Warren said...

Very insightful, Carol.

I'm not sure another color is any different than RED in my mind. An error is an error.

Love the post.

Carol Baldwin said...

Sandra, I totally agree! And if I've made an error, I would much rather have someone point it out to me before I submit it!

Anonymous said...

Carol, thank you for presenting such an informative post :) The websites and reference information you listed are such a valuable resource.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kathleen. Glad these posts have been helpful!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

These are all great tips. Thank you for a concise collection of reminders!

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks, Elizabeth. Glad you enjoyed this series.

UPSIDE DOWN MAGIC- Part I by Guest Blogger, Elliott Kurta

Please welcome back Elliott Kurta with his evaluation of an 8-book series by Sarah Mlynoski, Lauren Myracle , and Emily Jenkins.          R...