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Revising Your Work: 3 Easy-To-Use Revision Techniques

Editor Recommendations:
Revision Techniques


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Write Great Fiction: Revision And Self-Editing eBook | revision tips, book editing, manuscript editing

This unique guide provides an exclusive four-draft plan that takes your writing from an organic draft though the rough draft to a final draft, and ultimately a polished story

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Write and Revise for Publication: A 6-Month Plan for Crafting an Exceptional Novel and Other Works of Fiction | revising and editing, revision strategies, novel editing

Writers need a structured approach to writing fiction, one that includes effective strategies for both drafting and revision/fine-tuning, this book will help you design a 6 month strategy for publication

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Simplifying the Self Revision Process

By Brian Klems, Online Editor


When writing a novel, the revision process can be brutal. Book editing is challenging—it's time consuming, frustrating and, quite frankly, not that much fun.  But it's an extremely important part of the writing process and can be the difference between getting your book published and getting it rejected so many times that your rejection letter pile is larger than your manuscript.

Here are three simple revision techniques that I followed when writing my first book (in fact, they helped me land a book deal!). By taking the time to do the necessary book editing, you can improve your manuscript and give it the best chance you possibly can to catch the eye of an agent or editor.

3 Easy Revision Tips and Strategies to Improve Your Manuscript

Self-Editing: How to Get Your Manuscript Out of the Drawer and Onto the Shelves | revision techniques, proof reading, proof read

In this webinar, literary agent Michelle Brower sheds light on how she edits her clients’ material, what authors do before they get a book contract, and provides commentary on how the self-editing process makes all the difference in today’s publishing landscape

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1. Start on page one.

Whenever you're in the process of proof reading or manuscript editing, it's best to start on page one and work your way through. Not only does this give you an opportunity to catch typos (I get peek and peak confused all the time), it also allows you to study your characters and plot. Does the plot make sense in the order you've told it? Do your characters change from the beginning to the end of your novel? Editing is easiest when you follow the story the same way your readers would.

2. Circle passive voice words and eliminate them.

When revising and editing your manuscript, circle every instance when you use passive terms such as was, were, are, is, and have been. Writing passively is common for most writers (I do it all the time in my first drafts), but it slows down stories and makes it less exciting for readers. It's best to recast sentences to make them active voice. For example, Jim was stopped by the police (passive voice). To make this active voice, you just need to flip the sentence around: The police stopped Jim (active voice). This doesn't mean you have to remove all passive voice from your manuscript during the self-editing process, but the more you can eliminate, the better.

3. Delete all clichés.

Clichés are overdone, overused and sneak their way into our writing time and time again. We're writers—creative writers—who owe it to our audience to steer clear of lazy writing. And using clichés is lazy writing. To help you, here are 12 of the most common writing clichés all writers should avoid (plus, there are hundreds more in the comments section—heck, feel free to add your own!). Clichés are easiest to spot and remove during the editing and revising process. Even better, rewriting clichés can be fun.

Keep in mind, these are just a few basic tips when it comes to the revising vs. editing process. There are many other ways to improve your first draft and I recommend you consider them all when trying to get your manuscript in tip-top shape.

The bible on editing is Write Great Fiction: Revision And Self-Editing. This bestselling book from James Scott Bell covers everything and gives excellent examples throughout, which is why it's one of the most popular books on revision around. Another great resource is Self-Editing: How to Get Your Manuscript Out of the Drawer and Onto the Shelves, a 90-minute OnDemand webinar in which literary agent Michelle Brower walks you through all the important steps you need to take when revising and editing your novel or nonfiction work.

Finally, if you want help writing as well as editing, check out the Write and Revise for Publication: A 6-Month Plan for Crafting an Exceptional Novel and Other Works of Fiction. It helps you develop a path to knock out your entire novel (including the revision process) in half a year (which is much better than the 10-year plan most of us unfortunately follow).

Whether your book needs a simple line-by-line proof read or a heavier content edit, it's time you take the steps to surround yourself with the resources you'll need to elevate your writing. Other writers do this and it gives them an edge over writer who don't. It's time to get than edge and take your writing to the next level.

Take care of yourself and your writing,



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Brian A. Klems is the Online Editor of Writer's Digest. He's also a writer, husband, perennial fantasy sports underachiever, and father of three lovely little girls. His Writer's Dig blog—which covers writing and publishing—is one of the fastest growing blogs in the writing community, and his first book, OH BOY YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL: A DAD’S GUIDE TO RAISING DAUGHTERS, will be published by Adams Media this spring. Connect with him on Twitter @BrianKlems.