Improve Your Writing

It is rumored that James Joyce worked on one sentence in Finnegan’s Wake for fourteen years. We don’t need to go that far, but a polished story is the editor’s best friend and is more likely to be published. So if you want to sell your writing, a little revision will make a nice improvement.

If you don’t think you need to do any rewriting, you have a problem and might want to consider working the 12 Steps for Writers.

First, set your story aside for a while so it will be fresh to you when you pick it up again. Then, here are some questions to ask yourself when you do your rewrite.

  • Can you sum up the story in one sentence?
  • Have you taken out every unnecessary word?
  • Have you used the features in your word processor such as find/replace, Thesaurus, spell check, and grammar check?
  • Where does the story begin?
  • Does it hook the reader?
  • Where does the story end?
  • Does it say what you want it to say, or does it take a sidetrack?
  • Is there any extraneous stuff at the beginning or end?
  • Did the characters achieve anything?
  • Is the point of view (first person, third person, omniscient) consistent?
  • Is every character important to the story?
  • Do the characters have an agenda—their own, not yours?
  • Are the characters revealed through the choices and actions they make under pressure?
  • Does the dialogue have attitude, with each character having his own agenda?
  • Is there any “reader-feeder” where you are TELLING the reader something you want them to know? If it’s important to the story SHOW it, if not cut it.
  • Is there tension? Unanswered questions? Conflict such as two characters with opposing agendas?
  • Does each scene have a beginning, middle, and end?
  • Does each scene have a emotion, force, drive?
  • Does it flow, build and have transitions?
  • Do the readers see wide-angle shots as well as being drawn in with close ups?
  • Does each scene play out an emotion that no other scene does?
  • Is it of interest to other people and will others understand it?

Before your final draft take it to your writers group, or another experienced writer/editor, for feedback.