How about that wonderful phrase you love? For example, I love the word ‘whirligig.’ And I love to throw in stuff about greenhouses or spring garden flowers. This comes from my thirteen years in the business. Fine, but do these things:
- advance the plot
- develop characterization
- supply needed information
- set the mood
If the phrase, the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter does not do one of these four things, it does not belong. Throw it out. When making a dress you would not sew in a piece of cloth just because you liked the piece of cloth. When you rebuild an engine, you would not throw in a piece of metal, just because it’s shiny.
Does the story, the article have emotional impact – do you love the good guy and hate the bad guy? Never leave the reader ambivalent. Does the reader really care? An article should do more than just tell facts. It should have emotion, too.
Plot or Structure – can the scene go someplace else? Is the plot or article logical? In non-fiction, beginning writers often put two things together, when there should only be one. Are there two articles here, not one? While writing about my trip to Orlando, Florida, do I throw in my rant about charges on the airline?
To revise, it helps to:
- Let your writing sit for a brief time.
- Avoid feeling bad or good about it.
- Get feedback from other writers.
- Think like an editor
- Listen to your characters
- Let your material talk back to you.
- Assist other writers with their writing.
- Set the search function on your computer to hunt for common errors. (verb to be in any form. Ly – adverbs. They’re weak. Try to find a verb to replace them. He walked slowly – he shuffled, staggered, stumbled etc.)
Know when to stop revising (when you are just changing words around.)
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