Quick and Easy Revision Strategies For Days Your Brain Isn’t Working

pens clipartBy Jen Malone

Some days I got it and some days I don’t (I’m suspecting today might be a don’t day. Let’s blame any typos on that, m’kay?)

These are days where keeping the threads of a dozen plot points and timelines and character details straight seems about as likely as my kids offering to cook dinner tonight (and then offering to shower and start a load of laundry while they’re at it), but I still need to do something to propel my manuscript in a forward direction. Enter “revision for dummies”: quick and easy(ish) revision strategies that don’t require a ton of focus, but must be done, and can hugely improve a manuscript.

In nice, easy, don’t-stress-your-brain bulletpoints:

1. Format your manuscript.

I’ve tried. I cannot, will not, simply refuse to, remember it’s only one space between sentences. I also hate headers and footers while I draft. And so on. I fix all of this at some point in revisions and no one is the wiser. If you are fuzzy on proper formatting for a manuscript, may I suggest this post.

2. Search for over-used words. Sometimes you (just) already know (just) what those words are. Take me, for example. I (just) like the word (just). I’ve found it easier to (just) write and not worry and then eliminate most instances of it in revision. You might ask a critique partner to point out overused words to you, or, you could employ Wordle to do it for you. You (just) import parts of (or the entire document) and the program creates a beautiful cloud of words. Bask in its glory for a moment and then go on the hunt for words that don’t belong there. Next do a find and replace for any words identified and get them out of your manuscript.

3. As long as we’re doing find and repeats, do a search for all –ly words and get those adverbs out of there. Remember that Schoolhouse Rock jingle, “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly get your adverbs here”? Tell Lolly she can have them, because you won’t be needing them!

4. Know what else you won’t be needing? Dialogue tags. Well, not most of them anyway. And especially not the ones that are anything other than the basic “said” or “asked.” Yes, yes “queried” is a much fancier way to say “asked” but studies have shown that readers don’t actually register basic tags like “said,” which allows them to focus more on what your characters are saying, versus how they’re remarking.

5. Filter words. I do a lot of freelance editing and I would say this issue comes up in 99.99999% of those editing jobs. I could write an entire blog post on filter words, but someone has already done it here.  Do a search for any of these words and eliminate most of them:












And there you have it. Relatively simple ways to punch up your writing with minimal brain engagement! (just)



    1. Sadly- this is most days for me, so you might say I’ve perfected the technique. I might not have any character arc and the plot is a mess, but, by god, no one spots, spies or wonders anything!!


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