I have a confession to make. I find writing painful. Birthing words is hard labor.
But I LOVE revising. Am I weird, or do others of you feel the same way?
There are different levels of revisions, of course. The hardest ones are where you blow your entire manuscript apart and re-plot. I’ve been doing that recently. Still enjoyable in a BDSM kind of way (just tie me up and beat me, why doncha?) but intense.
Then there are the really fun revisions, where you get to go back and polish and elaborate and dig deeper. Here are a few of the tips and techniques I’ve found useful, in no particular order.
1) BACKLOAD YOUR SENTENCES. This is an interesting exercise, and it simply means to look at your sentences and put the most impactful words at the end. Look at this sentence: “Mud sucked at his shoes as he stepped back to view the car’s position.” What are the strongest words in the sentence? I’d say “mud sucked at his shoes.” So how about flipping it: “He stepped back to gauge the car’s position, the thick red mud sucking at his shoes.” That’s not the strongest example in the world, but you get the idea.
2) TEST YOUR MAN’S MANLINESS. Many of us are women trying to write in a male POV; a man writing in a woman’s POV would have the same issues. Does your hero really sound like a guy, or is he a girl with a few extra appendages? Copy and paste one of your chapters into the Gender Genie and see which gender it thinks your POV character is. It’s not a perfect test, but it’s a nice little gauge to use (and free). Also works if you have a kickass heroine you want to test as masculine.
3) MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS CONSISTENT. I actually blogged about this yesterday at my–using Enneagrams, a personality typing system, to test against your character to see if he or she is behaving in a consistent manner. The theory is that there are nine core personalities (and infinite variables within the nine, of course). By typing your character’s core personality, you can see what might be most likely to push his buttons or turn him on–-or win his heart. It’s a fascinating system.
4) EXPLODE YOUR PARAGRAPHS. This is a great way to force yourself to take another look at your writing from a different viewpoint. To see if it works for you, take a paragraph from an emotionally charged section of your manuscript, and copy and paste it onto a blank screen. Now, blow it apart. Separate the sentences with a few lines between them so you’re reading each sentence in isolation. Can it be tweaked to increase the emotional intensity? Does it say anything about your character or scene–could it be added to? If it doesn’t say anything, could it be cut? Between that sentence and the next , could some emotional intensity be added with just a word, or a detail, or a new sentence?
5) FIND YOUR WORD ECHOES. Run your chapters through the AutoCrit wizard. I actually bought a year’s membership in this site so I could get a bigger variety of “critiques,” but there are three free ones. Copy and paste a couple of chapters (up to 7k at a time, I think) and you can get reports on overused words, repeated phrases and sentence length variation.
6) READ IT ALOUD. The ear catches a lot of things the eye misses: repeated words and phrases, sentence pacing, etc. And by forcing the eye to slow down as you read, you can catch more typos.
7) READ THE LAST SENTENCE OF EACH CHAPTER. If it ends with the POV character going to bed or falling asleep, change it–unless you want the reader to fall asleep too. Nothing screams “you can put this book down now” like a sleeping hero.
So those are my favorite revising tips. Tell me some of yours!