Seven Tips on the Rewrite

Owl reminds me to be sharp and wise by Allard One/flickr

Owl reminds me to be sharp and wise


I was going through my notes and came across these. They’re good for your WIP and for your blog articles.

Revision is everything. Cut until you can cut no more. What is left often springs into life.


  1. Challenge every adverb.
  2. Challenge the whole first paragraph: Make sure it starts with action not narrator opinion.
  3. Challenge every line that you love – writer injecting his/her insight, wisdom, cleverness. Anything that you think is profound, sounds like poetry, esp. if it comes from the narrator rather than from the mouth of a character.
  4. Challenge every cliché – if you’ve heard it often, don’t use it. Even if it seems to speak with authority.
  5. Cut every dialogue tag (attrition) not necessary to tell who’s speaking. Only: he said, she said, they said, we said.
  6. Eliminate everything you’re not sure of. If you, the writer doubt it, the reader definitely will too.
  7. Read the draft aloud. Every sentence should flow without any word or phrase that interrupts the progress of the reader’s eye.

Fitzgerald said “Murder your darlings” – those turns of phrase or images of which you felt extra proud when they appeared on the page.- delete or change these.

Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones.

I hope this helps in polishing your WIP. I’m still on the stage right now of just getting it down but for those of you who like to rewrite while working the first draft this might be helpful. And it’s definitely good for those of you doing a rewrite.

What other tips do you have for revision? Do you use these for your blog articles?

You are the light of the world.

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About ClaraBowmanJahn

Journal writer. Author of "Annie's Special Day" And coauthor of Edmund Pickle Chin, A Donkey Rescue Story." Proud mother and grandmother of wonderful kids. Wife of brilliant husband. Servant of two cats. Member of Pennwriters and SCBWI.
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23 Responses to Seven Tips on the Rewrite

  1. A.M. Kuska says:

    I actually don’t mind reading, “he cried/whispered/shouted/asked.” I do mind words that simply were not meant to be used as dialog tags. Please don’t say, “He ejaculated.” as an example. >.<


  2. souldipper says:

    Great information, reminders and advice, clarbojahn. Thanks a bunch.


  3. widdershins says:

    R.U.E. … Resist the Urge to Explain … world-building, what your characters look like, dialogue, etc. I have a tendency to want to make sure that the reader ‘sees’ what I ‘see’ which takes away the magic of their imagination, so when I edit/rewrite I’m always on the lookout for those RUE’s.


  4. nrhatch says:

    Make sure you love each word and sentence. If you do, someone else will too.


  5. suzicate says:

    Love that comment about R.U.E.’s, hadn’t heard that one. The best I know of is to show not tell and to delete every adverb and adjective and use concrete verbs and nouns – the writing comes to life.


  6. pattyabr says:

    I agree with your tips. But sometimes when the words flow out, very little needs to be edited. Writing is tied to the subconscious.


  7. Good stuff, Clar! I am reminded of what Stephen King says in “On Writing”. It was something like Story=Story-10%.

    A wonderful speaker we hosted at the Fremont Area Writers some months back, a writer and writing coach quipped: “…hand me a manuscript and I’ll hand you back a bruchure.”


  8. Nina Badzin says:

    So glad you found me on Writer Unboxed! Thanks for your great comment here.

    Love this post–good, easy, spot-on revision tips. And you’re right, revision is NECESSARY for blog posts, too. I often find my blog posts need heavy revision as I tend to get long and indulgent. Internet readers won’t put up with that!


    • clarbojahn says:

      Your welcome, Nina, 🙂
      Some times I spend as much time on the rewrite as I do on the rough draft of my blog posts. I loved your article about “Writing Advice From your Husband”. It was a great read. I might like to borrow that idea, would that be OK?


  9. Nina Badzin says:

    I meant thanks for your great comment on my post.


  10. Pseu says:

    My favourite dialogue tip is to combine the words with action to indicate who’s speaking. For example

    Maria slammed down the phone.
    “Who the hell does he think he is, telling me how to behave?” She ran a finger under her eyelashes and looked at it. “And now he’s gone and smudged my mascara.”
    Jan looked at her and suppressed a smile.
    “How vain you are, daughter of mine. How vain.” She put her arms out. “Need a hug?”


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