You spent months, maybe years, working on your novel and you have finally typed the words The End. You stand and stretch, then head for the fridge to celebrate. You’re finished! Well, not quite. Go ahead and celebrate with friends and family. You deserve it, but just keep in the back of your mind that you are not finished. Far from it. The real jewel now has to be revised and polished until it dazzles even you. So, hide your flash drive in a drawer for a week or two, then come back and begin the arduous task of REVISING.

If you are fortunate to belong to a critique group, you would have benefited from the extra pairs of eyes and the different perspective each member would have brought to your work. However, they may not have caught everything. If you do not have a critique group, you have even more reason to go back and revise. Here are some things you will look for:

Qualifiers: These are adjectives and adverbs that minimize the impact of your words and pull your reader out of the story. For example, It was very cold outside.How cold was it? Very doesn’t adequately convey how cold it was. Much better to say, It was freezing outside.
Some popular qualifiers are: nearly, almost, quite, somewhat, slightly. Remove all of these if you can and substitute with a stronger verb.

That: Many sentences will flow better without the use of ‘that’.
He said that he could be ready by seven.He said he could be ready by seven.
I agree that we need to do something.
I agree we need to do something.

Cliches: All clichés were once creative, witty expressions that became so used they lost their effect and now choke your effort. You want to weed those out as much as possible. Expressions such as vanishing into thin air, living life in the fast lane and as fast as lightning went out with your grandmother’s corset. However, there are times when you may be able to get away with a cliché, if it’s in the middle of your novel and absolutely no other words will work.
Watch out for clichéd descriptions as well, especially of your characters. Someone referred to them as “driver’s license descriptions.” Everyone doesn’t have to have blue eyes and blonde hair and you don’t have to say someone is six feet four inches tall. It’s not that important, unless the character uses his height to some advantage, or it makes him stand out in a crowd.

Dangling participles: Often called misplaced modifiers, these can really distort the meaning of your sentence and confuse your reader. Look at this one:
“Rushing to finish the paper, Bob’s printer broke.” Here the subject is Bob’s printer, but the printer isn’t doing the rushing. Better to say, “While Bob was rushing to finish the paper, his printer broke.”
Here’s another: Walking to the movies, the cloudburst drenched Jim.
Who is walking to the movies, the cloudburst or Jim?

Sound: Read your work out loud to see how it sounds. Are your sentences short and choppy or long and cumbersome? Do your paragraphs they go on ad infinitum, or do you have appropriate breaks? Do you have pages of dialogue with little or no narrative? That can exhaust your reader after a while, especially if the scene is tension-filled. Breaking up a long passage of dialogue gives your reader time to breathe and prepares her for the next page-turning scene.

This is just a small sampling of some of the things you may have to correct when revising your novel. Others might be dialogue, action beats, point of view, narrative (are you showing rather than telling)? What do you look for when you are revising?

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