Monday, June 8, 2015

Revision: Time to Make Your Writing Better ~Suzy Leopold

The American Heritage dic . tion. ary defines revision [ri-vizh-uh n] as:
1. The act or work of revising. 
2. To prepare a newly edited version of a text.
3. To reconsider and change or modify.
4. A revised or new version, as of a book or other written material. 
Simply stated, the word revision means to see again

You’ve written your story and are excited to share it with a critique partner, or better yet send it off for submission to an agent or publisher. You feel your story is wonderful and unique and word perfect. Completing your story is a great feeling. You have worked hard and it is a time to celebrate. 


Your manuscript is not ready yet. There is no manuscript or work that is perfectly written and polished the very first time. A manuscript is not ready for submission until revisions are made. 

As a writer, revision is a critical part of the writing process. Many writers seem to dread this step and sometimes skip it. Revision is like practicing the piano or participating in baseball practice. It is a necessary step that must not be over looked. It is a part of the writing process that begins with a draft, followed by many revisions, to a manuscript that is polished and ready for submission.

Time to see a new vision for your manuscript. Time to see your story in a new light. Time to make the necessary changes for improvement. Time to reimagine what you story can be.

Revision is not the same as editing. Good writers separate composing from transcription.

Redo/resequence/rewrite Grammar
Prune/cut a section Paragraphing
Focus on a particular part Capital Letters
Adjust and change Spelling
Add a section Punctuation

1. Distance yourself 
The completion of your manuscript is hard work. You wrote and wrote and typed and typed, expressing your ideas and thoughts that became a story. 

Excellent! Reward yourself. 
Chocolate Chip Cookies & Milk
Now step back after reading your manuscript aloud one last time before setting your story aside for the time being. Let your manuscript rest. Let it simmer. Fresh eyes will allow you to see the manuscript more objectively.

You may feel the need to revise right away. Do not do so. Do not revise yet. Walk away from your story. Better yet, go for a walk.

Take a few days away from the manuscript and allow the story to mull around in your brain for awhile. As thoughts cross your mind, jot down the ideas that you may want to consider for revision.

2. Look at your manuscript with a critical eye by reading aloud
After distancing yourself from your manuscript, it is time to look back at your manuscript with fresh eyes. This can be difficult. Pretend that you are reading someone else’s work. Read your story as if you are critiquing a manuscript for a writerly friend. 
  • Concentrate on different areas of revision.
For the first read-through look closely at the content of the story.
Does it sound right?
  • Rearrange sentences so they are logical and effective.
Do you have a mental image of what is being described?
Are the sentences well developed and well elaborated?
Did you include sensory details? 
Think about what it looks like? What does it sound like? 
What does it feel like? What does it taste like? What does it smell like? 
  • Think about your character.
Has your main character developed and solved his/her problem?
  • Think about the pacing.
The story should be natural and not choppy.
Is your writing fresh and original?
Does the story flow with a story arc?
Do you need every scene?
Does the beginning hook the reader and set the stage?
  • The ending should be satisfying and unpredictable.
3. Time for a second read aloud
  • Read one sentence at a time.
  • Read your own work backwards. 
Does each sentence make sense?
  • Consider the word count and delete any unnecessary words. 
  • Circle all of the verbs. 
Are the verbs strong?
Choose strong verbs

  • Use clearer, stronger details.
  • Cut anything that is not making your story shine.
Remove unnecessary information or extra details. 

Weed through unnecessary words:
and, but, just, now, really, so, that, then, very, well.
  • Are you showing and not telling?
4. Time for a third read aloud 
Yes, a third read-aloud. If you are tired of reading your story aloud, how do you think the audience may feel? Children’s books are meant to be read aloud. A picture book needs to have re-readability.
  • Look carefully at the dialogue. 
  • Listen to the rhythm.  
  • Highlight all of the dialogue.
Does the dialogue between the characters move the story forward?
Is the character coming to life in the story?
The dialogue should not exceed thirty percent of the word count.
Think about dialogue
As you work to make your writing better, keep in mind that revisions should be exciting. The many revisions can turn ordinary writing into extraordinary writing. True authors go through many revisions before actually publishing.


Time to change your manuscript. Your manuscript needs revisions so it can be the best it can be. Revising is reimagining. Time to revise your manuscript.
Asiatic Lilies from my Prarie Garden


  1. Suzy I am always needing revision tips.
    Appreciations for this detailed article.

    1. My pleasure, Jan. You are always so complimentary. Happy revisions to you.

  2. Suzy, this is a very detailed how-to on revision. Excellent advice. I must admit I sometimes revise and edit at the sam etiem- it must be the former English teacher in me.

    1. It's okay, Kathy. As educators, it's what we do. And if it works for you to revise & edit your manuscripts at the same time, go for it.

  3. Great post, Suzy! I love revising and making my manuscript better. I think I'll copy and paste this, so it will always be handy for me to look at.

    1. I agree, Janet. Revising should be the best part where writers can make their ideas become the best stories ever. Thank you for your compliment as you find this post handy to you.

  4. Revision is my favorite part. At least the ideas are nailed down. I think of first draft as mise en place. I learned that on a cooking show--it means everything cut up and ready, all ingredients assembled. Revision is where the magic happens--and your post gives clear instructions for working the magic. Thanks, Suzy!

    1. The analogy that you shared, Pat, is outstanding. I love how you compared mise en place to as an important ingredient to one's writing.

      Writers can think about putting in place and setting up [ideas/draft] a manuscript followed by the organizing and arranging [revision] the ingredients [words].

      A recipe for success!

  5. I feel as though I've just taken a course on revision. Well done, Suzy! Thanks for the tips.

    1. Oh my! Thank you for the compliment, Jarm. I am thankful for your continued support of the GROG Blog.

      Happy revising to you as you make your manuscripts the best.

  6. Suzy...this post is like a mini-workshop! I'm printing it out so I can keep it nearby as I revise...which I am constantly doing. When I ask hubby to listen to a story, he's forever asking me, "But didn't you finish that one already? Aren't you tired of redoing it over and over and over again?" To which I reply...NO...and NO. :)
    And I'm always amazed at how I can think something is the best it can be..and then another crit buddy gives me feedback and...voila...I can make it ever better!

    1. As an educator and a writer, your compliment warms my heart, Vivian. I always enjoy sharing lessons and workshops with students, fellow teachers and writerly friends.

      What a funny story you shared about your husband's comments! My husband and 22 year old son are so good about listening to my many read alouds.

  7. Thank you, Suzy, for this timely post on the revision process. I sometimes lose sight of all the things to consider when I have BIC :) I've copied these excellent tips to keep handy as a reference. Your prairie flowers are gorgeous!

    1. Revising can be overwhelming, Charlotte. I am pleased to know that the tips will be useful to you. Our family is enjoying fresh organic garden goodness from our prairie garden and beautiful blooms.

  8. Suzy - this is FABULOUS! A definite keeper!!

    1. Your compliment warms my heart, Joanne. Thank you. All the best with the revision process.

  9. I'm one of those strange people who LOVE revising. I hate writing the first draft, so I pretend that I'm rewriting as I write it. Ha! My brain is easily fooled. Thanks for added to the tool bag!

    1. Good for you, Jilanne. You are not strange! Your process sounds like it worked for you. Hope I did not make your writing tool bag too heavy!

  10. All excellent pieces of information. I'm going to share this with my critique group.

    1. Thank you, Juliana. I hope the information is helpful to your critique group. All the best with your revisions.

  11. Timely for me. I like that paint palette paragraph revision graphic!

    1. It pleases me to know that this post was well-times for you and your writing, Tina.

      The palette paragraph is a writing folder that I ordered from a company called Really Good Stuff. You may want to check out the many excellent classroom resources featured in their catalog.

      생일 축하합니다

  12. Some time-tested and relevant thoughts about fine-tuning our work. Thanks for organizing it so well.

    1. Your thoughts about revision as fine-tuning is an excellent way to think of polishing up our manuscripts, Sherri. Thank you.

  13. You are welcome, Sydney. Happy revising.

  14. This is great. I'm working on two stories that need revision.

    1. Thank you, Sheila. Best wishes with your revisions. May the revisions make your story sing.
      ~Suzy Leopold

  15. Thank you for a concrete post about revision. It will be very helpful!