Putting Your Internal Editor To Work

The first step in revising is a step back. Put your work aside for at least a day or two so that you can look at it with a fresh eye before you attempt any revisions.

When you”re ready, read the piece through as though you were seeing it for the first time. Make marks as you read on any passages that seem awkward, that drag, or that lack “punch.” Read dialogue passages out loud to identify any that are stiff or unnatural sounding. Pay attention to your word choices and sentence structure.

On your second pass, look for grammatical and mechanical errors. Following is a checklist that is a valuable revision guide for any kind of manuscript:

Revision Checklist

  • Have you correctly used the eight parts of speech and avoided common mistakes, such as “affect” for “effect,” “it”s” for “its,” “like” for “as,” “who”s” for “whose”?
  • Have you varied the length of your sentences—some long, some short? Have you used some inverted sentences for variety?
  • Do you have smooth transitions between your paragraphs?
  • Is it easy to follow the logical organization of your material (or the events of the plot, in a story)?
  • Are your verb tenses consistent?
  • Did you “show” by example and anecdote, as well as “tell” by narration and exposition?
  • Have you primarily used the active voice rather than the passive?
  • Have you eliminated all clichs?

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