My 10-year-old daughter Christa stopped me as I rushed by her on the way to move laundry from the washer to the dryer. She played one note on the piano and asked, "Does this sound off to you?"
Since she had a "Doesn't this sound awful?" look on her face, I knew what to say. "I'll call the piano tuner."
When you're revising your writing, think of yourself as a piano tuner. You're tuning your manuscript so it doesn't hit any wrong notes.
Did you learn to play an instrument as a child? The long hours of practice before you hit the right notes were painful, weren't they? Ever listen to one person--just one person--hit wrong notes in a choir? Ruined the entire performance, didn't it?
You want your writing to hit all the right notes. Revising--editing, rewriting--ensures your writing sings. Here are some things that cause off-key writing:
- Repeated words. If you use the word magnificent in the beginning of chapter one, then it's not welcome in the chapter again. Use VisualThesaurus.com and find brilliant and glorious.
- Misspelled words. So you earned the "World's Worst Speller" award. That's no excuse for lazy writing. Microsoft Word identifies misspelled words. Or go to Misspelled.com and type in a word. I typed in fraighter and pulled up freighter. Typing in inocent pulled up innocent.
- Unneeded words. Certain words add nothing to your writing. Delete really and just. Writing: She was really sad is telling and passive. Try: She pressed the palm of her hand against the dull ache in her chest, waiting for tears that never came.
- Passive words. You've heard it before. I'm saying it again. Replace was, have been, to be with one strong verb. Example: Just three weeks after I found out I was pregnant, Rob and I were taking the trip of a lifetime. Change: Three weeks after the pregnancy stick turned blue, Rob and I took the trip of a lifetime.