Writing Wednesday - Revisions

I (erica) have been thinking a lot about the topic of "overwriting" lately. I've researched it, I've identified it in other people's writing, and yet I still do it myself. Why, oh why?!? Here's my very simplistic definition of overwriting: using 25 words instead of 10 to get your point across. Or: Overwriting is using too many words. (See? I can do it.)

So, I entered (another) revision process on AND this weekend to specifically look for examples of overwriting. An earlier critique warned me about this sentence: I tried not to stomp my foot, but apparently my desperation caused my body parts to take control over my brain. Couldn't she just stomp? Why yes, yes she could.

Other tips for revision and to avoid overwriting:

-Check your dialogue tags. Most likely, you should reduce them by at least half (again). And change almost all of them to "said."

-Think you've caught all your adverbs/adjectives? Think again. Of course, some are fine (necessary, even). But use the "find" feature on your edit bar to search for words containing -ly and cut some (again).

-Do you have a lot of sentences containing more than a few commas, or a semicolon, or dashes? Chances are your sentences are too long. Break them up. A paragraph is easier to read if you balance longer sentences with a few short ones.

-Upload your ms to www.wordle.net to create a word cloud. If the biggest words aren't your character names, you might have a problem. Common offenders are just, really, and that (and in my case, breathe - I know it's a romance, but jeez, do we really need to talk about the fact that they breathe quite so often!?).

What are your favorite (or least favorite) revision and editing tips? Please share in the comments.


  1. I like these tips. I haven't had to start a major revision yet, but I know for sure that I over use adverbs and adjectives, and I tend to make dialogue tags out of words that don't quite work. And use the words "seemed" and "apparently" way too much. Thanks!

  2. I know I have the"murdering" thing down to a fine art ... thanks Erica, just reduced my ms by 800 words yesterday alone. At the rate I'm going I will have taken half by words out from the original. Talk about too many adverbs, adjectives, and tags!

  3. I like your editing tips - I'm always on the lookout for tips that might help me catch more. I know it's in there, sometimes I just have trouble finding it! Especially since I tend to write how I speak... and that's just so not good. (see? example right there!)

    Glad to see I'm on your list for the half-marathon! I so need a good kick in the pants! ;)

  4. Great tips. Also, as well as Wordle, I just discovered AutoCrit yesterday - you need to subscribe/pay to get full use of the system but they have a free 800 word check (5 per day limit unless you subscribe) which tells you which words/phrases you are using over and over again.


  5. Thanks, Erica! You are very helpful. You know how very much all of these tips apply to my writing! Thanks to your help I am starting to recognize overwriting! (Just not in my own work, yet! But I'm sure that will come soon!) Good luck revising everyone! AND in our competition. Thanks, Rach. Another great resource! Christy


Stay and chat with us! Share your thoughts.