Revising 101 (Housekeeping)

The most important thing to revision? Buy lots of ink cartridges and printer paper. You might be tempted to skip this step. Don’t. This applies to both novels and poetry. Print that sucker out. I know, I know, it seems like a PITA to use all that ink and paper on something you just know is perfection. 

Trust me, it’s not. Errors are insidious, from little things like the word ‘out’ instead of ‘our’. Hard to spot. Or transposed letters because your eyes crossed when reading that particular section. Or words just flat missing. My favorite in my work is prepositions that go AWOL. Those suckers scatter like roaches when you turn on the light. 

Go Big or Go Home

The advice I scoffed at—at first—was to change the font of the work to something totally different, and enlarge. So I changed from Times New Roman to Arial. To Calibri. I still missed things. But when I changed it to Comic Sans 14 point. Oh, My. Errors stood out with big flashing signs. “You screwed up here! Notice me! (Pick the ugly font of your choice. It works.)

It takes a lot of paper to do this. I could use my novel as a doorstop. Or a firestarter. Somedays, it’s Burn, Baby, Burn first and foremost in my brain. Oh, and paperclip every chapter together. Or bull clip it, or put in separate labeled file folders in a drawer. Because when you drop it—and you will—frantic sobbing won’t put things back in order. Neither will the cat that chooses that moment to walk over it and sharpen his claws on stray sheets. 

If you hole punch after editing each page and put it in a binder, make sure you empty your hole punch sooner rather than later. Because if you accidentally knock the tray off, little white circles go everywhere. You’ll be finding them for months. They defeat the suckiest of vacuum cleaners. You could always sprinkle catnip over it, and hope your static-y cat rolls in them and picks a bunch up. Then you can vacuum the cat. 

Let me know how that works out. 

What are your housekeeping revision tips?


  1. You forgot about little old dogs who walk across the paper and decide to pee on it after you’ve dropped the whole unpaginated manuscript on the floor in front of an open window with a breeze coming in! 🙂
    I love the suggestion of using a large, ugly font to find errors. That’s brilliant! I might actually do that on my computer screen instead – I have a large desktop screen that is the one I use for editing everything. There is really something about printed copies that is different, but I do try to save paper when I can. The other trick I use is to read poems out loud. That helps find those missing words, too.

    • Constance

      I like having the computer read my stuff out loud. It doesn’t do as good on poems as it does on novels, but it helps. It’s also good to hand the poem to someone else and ask them to read it out loud. Gives you a whole new perspective on how you punctuate and break things.

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