Thursday, December 18, 2008

Revise for Impact

by Heather Moore

News Flash: Registration is open for the 2009 Storymaker Conference.

This fall I attended the League of Utah Writers conference and took a 6 hour editing seminar. I think it took me this long to recover. So now I'm ready to share the love.

The seminar was taught by Elizabeth Lyon, who has a half-dozen books published on writing and editing.

So today, I'd like to share the notes I took on "Revise for Impact" since every writer will enter the dark abyss of editing at least once or maybe one-hundred times on each manuscript produced.

Remember, this comes after your first draft is finished. Go through your manuscript with an eye for the following things--it will tighten up your story and prepare it for your beta readers.

1. One word sentences (to emphasize, as a question)
*One word sentences brings a reader to a complete halt.
*It’s a stop sign. Make it an important word.

2. Take out repetitive words

3. Watch out for common words: look/walk/saw/turn are the most used words.
*These have no emotional or descriptive value

4. Use synonyms for common words like "walk": sauntered, scuttled, stumbled, tromped, scurried, ambled, skip, trudged, side-step
* Or "look": stare, regard, view, peer, gazed, stared, glance, examine, study, glare, leer

5. Power positions. Words that will gain more impact at the beginning and the end

6. Alliteration—rhyme or several words in a sentence starting with same letter--only use when you are doing so for a purpose.

7. Clich├ęs—take them out

8. Repetition: former/past/history: This comes with reading the second draft and having a beta reader go over your story. Watch for those ideas, a beliefs, or desires that are repeated too many times. Remember--your reader is smart.

9. Watch the Telling first, then Showing. This shows that the author doesn’t trust the reader. Keep the scene and dialog that shows. Get rid of the advance sentence of telling. (I see this A LOT in novice manuscripts.)

10. Imagery
*Similes: as/like
*Metaphors: complete substitution
(E. Lyon recommends that you have a simile or metaphor on your first page).


Celise said...

How do you go about finding beta readers? Where do you go to find people like that? Do you want an adult reader or someone in the same genre you write? How many should you have? What should the requirements be for a reader? Just curious.

Annette Lyon said...

Celise, That's a good idea for a future post, actually! A couple of ideas: network with other writers (go to conferences, local writer organizations, etc) to find readers and critique friends. Or find online sites that provide feedback and critique groups.

One to look at:

Heather B. Moore said...

Yes, if you go to writers conference or attend a local writing group in your area, you'll start to network. My beta readers change from time to time, depending on the book, etc. and who I think will be the most skilled at helping me.

Michelle said...

Heather THANK YOU for posting this I really wanted to go to the conference and I couldn't. Sounds like it was an awesome class.

Celise, all I have to do is say I am a writer and there are people who want to read. Be picky about who you hand your MS to, and tell the reader what you want. I have found it works pretty well.


Heather Justesen said...

Heather, thanks for the reminders. I'm working on edits myself (and more edits, and more seems like a long, never-ending battle, even though I know I will finish it all some day), so your post was very timely.

Danette said...

Yes, thanks for the important reminders. It's amazing how you can revise looking for this flaw, then revise looking for this other flaw and then another. IT's quite the process so your post helps remind me of the many more flaws I need to watch out for.

Sluggo said...


This is timely info for me as I'm now in the edit phase of my first work's initial rough draft.

In addition to having beta readers provide actionable feedback, it will also be interesting just the get a first reaction to the story in general.

Ed in Tampa