Revision is not a dirty word

By Julie Lessman

When I finished my first novel A Passion Most Pure over six years ago, revision was a dirty word. I mean, my keyboard was still warm from giving birth to this epic dream of mine, and the brunt of the labor was basically done, right? Uh, no.

As author Michael Lee so aptly states, “The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist.” So once I got off the birthing table and learned THAT lesson, the process of revision became what author Bernard Malamud calls “one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.” And for me, it truly is!

So what are my favorite revision rules of thumb? I’m glad you asked.

Five Top Writing Tips I Could NOT Do Without:

1.) The writer classic: Show rather than tell! EXAMPLE: Mitch leaned forward, furious with her. BETTER: Mitch jerked forward, the muscles in his jaw tensing.

2.) Ditch the “ly” adverbs and go for powerful verbs to convey your emotions. My writer’s Bible is The Synonym Finder by J.A. Rodale—wonderful tool! EXAMPLE: She glanced at him angrily. BETTER: She seared him with a look.

3.) Eliminate all unnecessary words to simplify. True talent is saying the most with the least amount of words. EXAMPLE: Sarah ran over to the dresser and began searching through her jewelry box. BETTER: Sarah bolted to the dresser and searched her jewelry box.

4.) Replace some speaker attributions with beats,(action that implies who is speaking), which will give you more bang for your buck in showing rather than telling. EXAMPLE: “So help me, Bridie, I’d fire you right now if I could,” Mitch said. BETTER: Mitch slammed his fist on the table, causing her to jump. “So help me, Bridie, I’d fire you right now if I could.”

5.) Use “ing” words sparingly. EXAMPLE: Cocking his head, he listened for the sound. BETTER: He cocked his head and listened. (The phrase “for the sound” is implied.)

So next time you dread the hated “R” word, just remember—practice makes it perfectly easy!

Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She is a commercial writer for Maritz Travel, a published poet and a Golden Heart Finalist. Julie has a heart to write “Mainstream Inspirational,” reaching the 21st-century woman with compelling love stories laced with God’s precepts. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. Her first book, A Passion Most Pure, just released in January 2008. Visit her Web site at


  1. Excellent post. I used to dread revisions. But time has taught me that once you have something on paper, it's much easier to make it better. Getting it down on paper the first time really is the hardest part.

  2. Thank you for the post. The Michael Lee quote provided a new perspective for me. Without revisions, agents and editors are seeing an artist's unpolished form. I'd much rather give them the black-tie me, instead of jeans and a t-shirt. Back to my rewrite...

  3. I have to agree with "virginagain." Revision is often a whole lot more fun than the brain calisthenics it takes to get the story written in the first place!

  4. Amen to that, Virgin Again (which, by the way, I LOVE your blog title so much, I went to visit you and left a comment!!). The hardest part for me is getting started and getting it down. Revisions are just plain fun (as long as the editor doesn't fool with your plot, that is!!).

    Ed & Myra, thanks for your posts too. The Michael Lee quote is something I just found by accident, but it's sooo true!


  5. Thank you. I didn't realize I was making so many basic mistakes. Yikes.


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