I wrote this post a short while back about how I like to revise my writing, which is accurate but unhelpful. This time around I have actual advice.
Step One: Break Down the Workload
Give yourself about 1,000 words to revise per “session.” It may sound unproductive, but trust me on this one: the fewer words you edit at a time, the more attention you can give them. Revision entails reading something over and over and over. That’s a lot easier when it only takes about 5 minutes per read-through.
Step Two: Make Technology Work For You
Most people loathe the revision process. It’s tedious and time consuming. The good news is, your computer can do some of the work for you. You can use two of the editing tools I mention in this post for this step. One of them is free!
Take a good look at the adverbs and adjectives. Read the sentences they’re in. Are they really necessary? I mean really necessary?
If the answer is yes, let me ask you this:
Are they really?
Are you sure they won’t become redundant if you find a stronger verb?
Next, obliterate all but the most necessary instances of passive voice. If you don’t want to use either tool I recommend, and the word processor you are using doesn’t highlight passive voice it, do a Ctrl+F and look for “had” and “was” and “-ing.”
Here is my post explaining why passive voice is bad, bad, bad.
Step Three: Read it Out Loud
Having someone else read it out loud to you is the best way to pick out weirdness in your writing, since their voice will be more like the voice inside a reader’s head. It’s fine if you read it too, though you’ll do better if you record yourself and listen.
Download a voice recording app onto your cell phone or tablet and read the writing you want to edit out loud. Here’s the one I use, which is for Android.
As you listen, you’ll pick out things you missed while you were reading it. If you do Step One and keep the amount of writing you revise at a time small, you probably won’t need to take notes.
Step Four: Get Feedback
In my experience, the very best way to improve is to let someone else pick apart your writing. There are tons of feedback communities out there, but my favorite is Scribophile. (How many times have I mentioned them on this blog, anyway?)
You can also submit it on your blog and hope someone gives some constructive criticism. At the very least you’ll be able to see what gains attention and what doesn’t.