Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Writing Hacks During the Revision Process

You've heard of life hacks--simple tricks that make your life easier, more fun, and interesting.

While every book is different and you have no doubt found your own bag of editing swag, some tools are just indispensable.

I'm in the middle of revision right now. And starting another novel. This may or may not be ill-advised, but I'll see how it went after I'm done.

Here are some writing hacks that you may or may not have heard of.

1. Paragraph Hacking

You don't have to read the following. Just look at each section and tell me which looks more inviting to the eyes.

Example 1

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Example 2

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


Both examples are an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson. But only one is structured in a welcoming way.

The second example is the winner. The reader doesn't go, "Oh, great let me slog through this."

Don't be afraid to break up your paragraphs.

Even if they are only a sentence long, a single sentence paragraph is a great technique to get a particularly important message to the reader.

(See what I did there?)

2. Reading Aloud

Yeah, yeah. You've heard this before.

But it works.

While going through your manuscript during edits, read aloud. If you stumble on a word or sentence or it just seems weird to you, investigate the conundrum and see if it needs to be added to, cut, or changed to make it all flow better.


3. Get Feedback but Wait on Using it.

Run through your manuscript by yourself the first time and then consult your beta readers' notes. You may fix something they point out any way.

You want constructive critique but you don't want any notes that could adversely shift the structure of your story.

Remember, YOU are the architect. The CPs are the guys who make sure your building is up to code and not a fire hazard.

You want to have the deepest sense of your story FIRST, then look at the notes and see how it fits in the large scheme.


Revision is different for everybody and no one has all the answers. At the end of the day, it's your book and your call. Do what works for you.

But at least DO revise. First drafts are toothpick houses built by the tide. They have to be moved, fortified, and made to last.

And you're the one with the plan.


2 comments:

  1. I'm not sure about reading the entire manuscript aloud, but reading dialogue aloud is a must. It's easy to tell when something doesn't sound like what a person would say when you're saying it. O_o

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