Must Read: 20 Essential Tips on Rewriting Your Story Until it Shines

Illustration for article titled Must Read: 20 Essential Tips on Rewriting Your Story Until it Shines

A big part of the revision process in fiction-writing really is re-vision, seeing your story anew. And over at Necessary Fiction, this month’s “Writer in Residence,” Matthew Salesses, offers 20 absolutely indispensible tips on making your fiction much, much stronger. Including a lot of stuff I’ve never seen before, and some hot-coffee-in-the-face startling stuff. Here are the first four tips:

1. To me, the most important question to ask as I revise is: Am I bored here? The best “advice” I’ve ever heard on revision was from the wonderful teacher and writer Margot Livesey. It was something like this: if you are bored, it’s not because you’ve read that section so many times, it’s because it’s boring.

We tell ourselves all sorts of excuses-and that our writing would be interesting to someone else, reading for the first time, is one of the worst. Good writing is always engaging, even after reading it over and over. We reread favorite books. If it’s boring to you, then why would it interest your readers? Just about the worst offense a writer can commit is to be boring.

2. It’s hard to revise because you know what you were intending, and you might read that into what is there. Sometimes it helps to change the font, change the margins, change the medium. Do something to divorce yourself from the text before you read it again, anything to trick yourself into thinking it’s something you’ve never seen before. To revise, I have to will myself to see my work as someone else’s.

3. Rewrite. You’ll see this one mentioned several times. Type the draft out again in a new document, in this way making sure you are using the words you really want to use.

4. Read out loud. A similar idea. Your ear will hear the points that ring false.

Check out the other 16 great tips at the link. [Necessary Fiction]

Top image: Passigatti.


Han Solo Stole My Nerf Herd

In a lecture are the U.S. Naval Academy in 1973, Robert Heinlein insisted that you should never rewrite. Cut and correct, yes. But rewriting, he said, indicates that you're smarter today than you were yesterday.