On Revision by Tony Conaway

This post came as a response to a question I posed about revision: how you approach it and how you feel about it. This answer was so good, I asked Tony if I could repost it here. Thanks Tony!

I have no trouble revising my work. I usually want it to be as good as possible.

I have no problem revising my fiction. My problem is deciding when to STOP tweaking it.

I revise to catch errors, of course.

I revise to catch overused works and sentence structure. (No semi-colons allowed, and few colons.)

I revise to even out the pacing. (One scene may resolve too quickly. Another may get more space than the scene deserves.)

I revise to “kill my darlings.” (I had a nice description that I’d researched about what happens to the human body when a 50 caliber round hits it. But it wasn’t necessary, and the story was too long, so it had to go.)

I even revise to make sure the story looks good on the page for whomever is buying it. (Last night I fixed a paragraph which had one word on the last line. That shortened the entire page count by one.)

One technique that helps with revision is to read my work aloud. Not only does that make it easier to catch errors, it helps me catch overused words. (I finished a story yesterday at 4 a.m. When I read it aloud, I realized I’d used the word “obsessive” twice in a 2,000-word story. One of those had to go.)

Finally, remember what Jonathan Mayberry says:

One of your re-readings should be solely to include all five senses. This revision should make sure that even lesser-used senses (like smell and touch) are included in your work.

Jonathan Mayberry

P.S. I was speaking today to a physician who is also a wannabe-novelist. He said “You know, med school was hard. Residency was hard. But learning to write well, that’s really hard.”


Co-author of the best-selling Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands series and 8 other business books, Tony Conaway shares more writing tips at his blog. His short stories often anchor anthologies, most recently Fall Into Fantasy (Cloaked Press, 2019).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.