Monday, August 25, 2014

Ten Revision Techniques: The Belly of the Beast

One cannot revise a manuscript (go into the belly of the beast) without a plan, a tactic, or training.  Writing well is both a science and an art.  There are certain skills that are integral to good writing before a courageous writer can take risks and propel forward to great writing.
Revision is a scientific, laborious task and must be done page by page. 
Step One: Circle or highlight all the verbs on one page of manuscript.  Identify each verb as a passive or an active verb.
Step Two:  Eliminate as many passive verbs as possible by rewriting the sentences, using active verbs in their stead.
Step Three:  Circle or highlight all adverbs. (Remember not all adverbs end in –ly.)  Can the verb and its accompanying adverb be replaced by a stronger, more energized verb? Eliminate unnecessary or redundant adverbs. 
Can any of the remaining verbs (those without adverbs) be replaced by a more energetic or descriptive verb?  
Step Four: Circle or highlight all repetitions: verbs, nouns, phrases, etc. on the page.  Are they placed too close together where they distract the flow of the sentence, the paragraph, or the page?  If so, eliminate redundant or unnecessary repetitions. Substitute repetitive words with appropriate pronouns or synonyms.
Step Five:  Find, circle or highlight all clichés.  Either eliminate the clichés or substitute them with new or different (but not forced) descriptions.
Art takes risk and courage.
Step Six: Highlight every other sentence so that the length of each sentence is readily visible. Remember sentence length determines the rhythm, the pace, and the tone of the manuscript, so shorten some sentences for emphasis and combine others to create longer, more in depth descriptions.
Step Seven:  Eliminate unnecessary sentences or add sentences where more description or explanation is needed.
Step Eight: Vary sentence structure.  Move where the subject and the verb sit inside the sentence to add interest or emphasize the importance of its meaning.
Step Nine: Show some courage and experiment with parallel structure, juxtaposition, or creative punctuation. Learn how to use clauses and phrases to demonstrate skill.  
And Step Ten:  Show some unexpected risk: do something others do not dare try. Do what great artists do: experiment with unusual techniques and make it your own. For example, look up how to use synesthesia or the zeugma.

You are now armed and ready.  Bring on the beast. 

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