Ten-step Revision

Guest Post by Sally Jadlow

Mark Twain once said, “Most of writing is rewriting.” Harry Shaw in his book, Errors in English and Ways to Correct Them, says, “There is no such thing as good writing. There is only good rewriting.”

Patricia Fuller says to declare a piece finished without a rewrite is like “waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”

In revision, it’s best not to try to do rewriting the minute you put the final word on the page. Let it marinate for a while. You’ll be amazed at the things you’ll see to rearrange, the misspellings, and the poorly structured sentences when your piece has cooled a day or two.

Here’s a checklist after you’ve thrown up your hands, done a little happy dance, and shouted, “Done!” . . . for the first time.

  1. Does your piece follow some kind of order or logical progression?
  2. Do a readability check after spell check. If that checker doesn’t show up, set your computer with these steps in MS Word 7. Go to the circle in the upper left of your screen. Click the bottom of the pop-up window under “Word Options.” Go to “proofing” on the left side of the window. Check, “show readability statistics.” Then click “OK.”

Aim for these numbers:

      Words per sentence: 15 maximum

      Characters per word: 4.5 maximum

      Passive voice: 5% maximum

      Flesh Reading Ease: 80% minimum

      Flesh-Kincaid Level: 6 maximum (This is grade level; 4 is better.)

  1. How is the pacing? Does your novel bog down in the middle? If so, add a new character or invent a new crisis.
  2. Is your dialogue believable? Does it sound like real people talking? For instance, do they use the contractions of he’ll, or can’t instead of he will or cannot?  
  3. When your characters talk, have you woven actions into the writing? Readers glean knowledge from body language as well as the words spoken.
  4. Have you made dialogue short with fragment sentences in tense scenes; longer sentences when you want to slow the action?
  5. Are your characters well developed? Does at least the main character or his goal change over the course of the story?
  6. Have you set up each scene with an established time and place so the reader knows where and when the scene happens?
  7. Have you created a sequel after a scene? Sequel gives a character time to pause before jumping to another scene.

10.  Go over your piece one last time for punctuation and spelling.

Check each of these points when you’re in rewrite mode. It can make all the difference.


Sally Jadlow teaches creative writing for the Kansas City Writers Group and Matt Ross Community Center. Her titles include God’s Little Miracle Book; The Late Sooner, a historical fiction; and co-author of Daily Walk with Jesus, a 365 daily devotional. Her books are available at Amazon.com available in paperback and e-reader.


Posted on March 19, 2013, in Publicity & Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. That is so true, Sally. I have already rewritten my second book, The Night They Came, a sci-fi thriller, and am reintroducing it to my new readers. I am also in the process of rewriting my first book, Tales of a Lucid Dreamer, a collection of twelve short stories based on lucid dreams, which I wrote in 2006. It should be ready by this Summer of 2013. By Revisiting and Rewriting these stories I have made some great improvements, and I'm glad I decided to take the time to do it. It will be well worth it in the long run. I believe that if you have a good story behind you that could easily gain a new audience, maybe you should consider rewriting, And if your cover needs a new look as well, it may be just what you need. Thank you very much!

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