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Kim Tomsic

Friday, January 13, 2023

Revise First, Edit Later: Do You Know the Difference?


Hello, Creative Writers!

Sometimes the words "editing" and "revising" get interchanged, but they are different. 

Know the Difference:

Editing includes micro changes like making stronger verb choices, choosing language to match the mood of the scene, slowing down or speeding up a scene depending on what it needs, working out when to include dialogue tags and when to leave them out, deciding on paragraph fixes that could tighten your prose, making better word choices, noticing the read-aloud quality, the sound of the dialogue, etc.

Revising covers the macro changes such as deciding if a character could be cut from your book;  considering if each scene matters and how scenes are threaded through a "because of this then that" connection. In revision, you also track the pace of your plot, the turn of your scenes, the ticking timeclock and tension. You make sure that breadcrumbs are placed and that they have a payoff. You track if your protagonist has agency and is driving the action throughout the story; if they don't, you have reasons for why. During revisions, you make sure you've given the readers reasons to root for your protagonist, and you flesh out characters to make sure nobody is cardboard, and more! I can't wait to hear your ideas for revisions.   

You can look to the lists of others to find revision ideas that could possibly serve you. I hope you keep (or start) a personal revision checklist. Keep in mind that your list will be a work in progress. As you fix some of your writing issues, other issues will emerge.

Ideas for your Checklist:

Creating a personal editing and revising checklist helps me remember to look for things I know I can do better later. I don’t want to revise or edit in the middle of creating – it interrupts my flow. So when I'm creating a draft, I like to keep a running list of items to consider later during the editing and revision stages. If I don't keep a list, those items bug me and beg for my attention.

Examples of things on my editing checklist:

  • Search "to be" verbs and update with action verbs.
  • How can I amplify the tension on page x?
  • How can page x feel more tactile?
  • What's a fresh way to say ___________?
  • Do I have too many em dashes or exclamation points (I tend to abuse these)?
  • Can I delete 95% of of the times I say "just" in a chapter?
  • How many times did I say "began" and/or "started" and can I delete?
  • Are my intensifiers needed?
  • Did I have too many dialogue tags, and did I do a good job with invisible dialogue tags? 

Examples from my revision checklist:

By not trying to edit and/or revise in the moment, I stay in the creative flow. When I'm finished writing the first draft, I continue building my editing and revising checklist, adding items that are my know issues (oh, I have many 😉).

Please share ideas from your list!



p.s. Revise first. There's no point in editing scenes that might get deleted. Once revisions are done, you are ready for the micro changes. Here's a fun editing checklist on the blog Fiction Writer's Mentor.

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