Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Revision Checklist

Here's a little set of guidelines I put together years ago to help myself and other writers.  Most of this advice was learned from years of poetry workshops.  Feel free to print it out for your own use.  --Gayle


  • Pare out words that have no purpose.
  • Pare out lines that have no purpose.
  • Pare out poems that have no purpose.
  • Pare out clichés.
  • Pare out unoriginal ideas.
  • Pare out each determiner, such as “the,” “a” and “an” that is not necessary.
  • Pare out possessives that are not necessary.
  • Pare out excessive modifiers.
  • Pare out redundancies.
  • Pare out contrived language.
  • Pare out contrived images.
  • Pare out explanatory passages, unless the explanation is particularly unique and poetic.
  • Pare out or replace weak openings.
  • Pare out or replace weak endings.
  • Pare out or replace weak middles.
  • Replace passive verbs with active verbs.
  • Replace present participle “ing” verbs with present tense verbs. (ie. Bleeding to bleeds)
  • Replace prepositional phrases with tighter language.
  • Replace excessive use of alliteration.
  • Replace titles that do not draw you into the poem.
  • Replace titles that give away your ending.
  • Replace epigraphs that tell it all.
  • Replace rough transitions.
  • Replace common language with musical or poetic language, and pay special attention to the combinations of vowels and consonants.
  • Check spelling.
  • Check punctuation.
  • Check for consistency of tense.
  • Check for consistency of voice.
  • Check for unintentional repetition of words.
  • Check line breaks for best pause effect.
  • Check information to verify its authenticity.
  • Check for clarity.
  • Check for double meanings you may not want.
  • Check for balance.
  • Check for irregular rhythm.
  • Check for best usage of stanzas.
  • Check ethics of content. Is there something you wrote that could hurt a reader?
  • Consider combining nouns with verbs not usually used with those nouns, such as “night leans.”
  • Consider changing to a different point of view. (ie. First person to third person)
  • Avoid creating a falsified antiquity.
  • Stick to only those languages you have mastered.
  • Aim for subtlety or revise toward the mystery.


Sarah Allen said...

Fantastic editing advice. I'm working on a first draft of a novel, but this editing part will come very soon. Thanks for this :)

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

J.L. Campbell said...

Man, this is a lot of stuff to pare, but I see where your list fits fiction too. Quite useful.