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5 Revising Tricks


Note the title. Tricks, not tips, because the following isn't the Holy Grail of Revising Secrets (though if someone has a copy, send me a message and we'll negotiate a price). The following is simply things to help fool your mind when it's become a weeping pile of mush from countless hours spent revising.

Change the font
Sounds too simple, right? I'm betting there's some major scientific study that would show how this works. I'm also betting I wouldn't understand said study. What I do understand is that reading the same words 10,000,000 times will likely cause you to gloss over important things. Changing the font forces your brain to pay a bit more attention and might catch those comma and spelling errors.

Change the layout
Switching the view on your document to something like Reading Layout takes out distracting tool bars and helps you feel like you're reading an actual book instead of words on a screen. And this can be really important. When revising, it's all too easy to get caught up in the technical, making it hard to step back and see how each scene plays into the story as a whole.

Read from a different character's point of view
This is especially helpful on dialogue-heavy sections to ensure each voice is solid and each exchange is easy to follow.

Read something else
A book, a newspaper, the fine print at the bottom of a sales receipt. Anything that will allow you to shift gears. Getting your brain on a different course is like a splash of cold water to the face.

Walk away
Not permanently, of course. But if you've already put in some serious time on a certain WIP and you're reaching the I-hate-you-but-I-love-you stage of revising, it doesn't hurt to work on something else. You're not giving up on it, you're taking a step back to evaluate and clear your head. When you return, you'll have a fresh perspective and be able to fall in love all over again.

What tricks do you have for revising? List 'em in the comments below!
Amanda Hannah

Amanda grew up on a big farm in a small town with one stoplight, one school, and a handful of imaginary friends.She would’ve gone to college forever, but eight years and five majors tested her advisor’s patience. So she moved to Germany to explore creepy castles before landing in Spain where she’s perfecting her Flamenco.

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  1. I'm revising right now and I'm finding it extremely helpful to schedule an hour or two with my crit partner each day to revise/write together. We do this online, sharing bits and pieces that are stumping us. Having fresh eyes look at a paragraph that I've read 100x brings a whole new angle to it. It helps me every time!

  2. Recently I've started dividing my WIP into parts. I used to just edit until I got sick of looking at the pages, but now I divide up by chapter or section. Then I take a break or put it aside. It takes longer, but I catch a lot more of the little errors.

  3. I do like Jennifer -- I revise by scene or by chapter if it's a shorter chapter. Then I take a break when I finish each piece. It helps allow my mind to process all the changes and think about what needs to happen next to make it cohesive.

    Great post. :)

  4. I need to revise on paper first. I pick up maybe half the amount of mistakes while reading on the screen. And I'm not just talking about grammatical errors. Reading on paper makes it easier for me to spot overused words, pacing issues, etc.

    And I also revise in chunks. I generally work chapter by chapter until most of the small stuff is taken care of. If I need to make huge changes, I'll do that first and then tidy up the overall picture as I go through each chapter.

    Oh, and reading out loud is a must when I'm polishing it up.

  5. Read ALOUD. Or download a program to read the manuscript for you. It's amazing the things you catch when you're forced to listen to it. This also helps with making sure dialogue sounds realistic, and description is clear.

  6. Wow. Everyone got here before me. Work on paper, work scene by scene, and read out loud (especially dialogue). Also, a good critique partner with a purple pen.

  7. Great tips in this post and comments! That font one is new - will have to try it. I also print out my MS to proof read with a pen and catch many more typos that way. Then I pass it on to others.

    Using readers really helps me for 2 reasons: I get new eyes and my tired eyes are refreshed after a break. I use both adult writer friends and teenagers (my target audience). It's also important to get feedback from people who barely know you. My last reader is my agent.

    I like to have 2 WIP's going on at once so that there is no wasted down time while waiting for my readers' feedback. It's never too early to start brainstorming on your next book, and maybe that perfect scene that doesn't belong in book 1, would work in book 2.

    I save what I cut in a separate document, and I save old drafts. That way I can always add it back if I change my mind, and emotionally it's easier to cut and paste than to delete.

  8. If possible, move your computer to a new location. It breaks your routine a bit.

    I remember in high school our teacher said to always proofread backward so you're looking at the words rather than reading the passage, but I can't imagine reading an entire novel backward.

  9. Change the font? That's awesome. I'm going to try that next. I'd never thought of that. Personally, I have to print mine out. There's some kind of vortex I enter into when I'm staring at a computer screen where I miss lots of errors. Printing it out seems to hightlight them. Don't know why.

  10. @Elizabeth May: Reading outloud is the BEST. You hear things your eyes might otherwise skip.

    I like putting it aside and making myself a cup of tea. Playing videogames is also a good break, because you have to focus on that and there's no time for your brain to mull over other things.

  11. I send the ms file to my Kindle. I was amazed at how I could see the ms differently just by changing devices. (Along with the thrill of seeing my ms looking just like the other, already-published books on the list.)

    However, there's a charge to send the file, so I wait until the ms is in final drafts.

    Here's a link to a study as to why we can miss typos, from The Blood Red Pencil, that was SO interesting (and fun)!

    As always, <3 this blog!

  12. Thank you for this post! I love the trick about changing the font. So simple and obvious, yet you'd never in a million years think of it. I know I have a tendency to leave revising on the shelf, too scared to even contemplate the thought. This has made me want to have a go at my Nano novel from last year. :)

  13. I use the trick of taking another character's perspective so often when I'm stuck... it works, and it's so much fun. A lot of my ideas seem to sprout from there!

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  15. I used to try different fonts until I found one that just clicked with me. It's easy on the eyes and gives me the impression and reminds me my ms is serious business.


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Item Reviewed: 5 Revising Tricks Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amanda Hannah