“How do I revise?”

This is for Louise.

1. Type and print out your work. Reread it with a pen in your hand. You don’t have to give anything up, at least not at first. Just jot down your notes. Underline words that you’re not sure about.

2. Read your work aloud, just to yourself. Listen to yourself. (You can add movement, pacing can help with tempo. Standing up can change your perspective.)

3. Try doing something on the page to make the words more visible. You can use highlighters to pick out patterns. You can circle all of the adjectives, or all of the verbs. (Do one at a go, then the next.)

4. Cut some of the adjectives (and adverbs, too, those -ly words). Decide which ones your reader really needs, and which ones you used out of habit.

5. If you have a lot of was and is or have verbs, see if you can spice them up. Sometimes this is easy: change was sitting to sat. Instant fix!

6. Make a decision to ADD something. Maybe just concrete nouns one time; the next, maybe color; maybe sounds.

7. When I feel myself getting far away from something, I reverse the advice of #1 and write it out in longhand. (I think this is a right brain / left brain trick.)

8. Remember, above all, that it’s YOURS. And it’s not written in stone.


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