Monday, December 19, 2011

Revision Tip: Choose the Right Details

For the month of December, I really need to concentrate on my novel revisions. So instead of my usual Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and ABCs of Writing Middle Grade Fiction I'll be posting short revision tips from various sources.

 Today's Tip:  

Details add sparkle to the story (and can sometimes cut down your word count).

It's a little weird to think that putting in details can actually make a story shorter. But one of the things I’ve noticed while revising is that sometimes a carefully selected word or phrase can replace an entire sentence.

I think it’s important to make sure the details you choose are ones your main character would notice. For example, my current novel has a lot of smell-related details since my main character has a keen sense of smell. 

Watch for:

 - sentences where the main purpose is to state a description (often starting with "It was..."). These can sometimes be eliminated by using a descriptive phrase or by showing how the character reacts to the description.

 - sensory details that are vague, rather than specific. For example,  It smelled delicious vs. It smelled like the gingerbread cookies her grandmother used to bake.

 Cool Quote:  Description does nothing to move a story forward on its own. It’s how it interacts with the characters that makes or breaks it.”  Janice Hardy, Description 101: Is Your Description Helping Your Story or Holding It Back?  The Other Side of the Story, April 21, 2011

Over at Chocolate for Inspiration, my critique buddy Christina Farley talks about her revision process – she has one phase of revision that's just for getting the details right.


  1. Thanks for this! Looking forward to more tips!

  2. I love reading about specifics. It makes the writing/reading pop and very unique. This is what I try to focus on in my revisions.

    Off to check out Christina's post. :)

  3. Description is so important, but easy to overdo, especially in middle grade. I like how you provide a way to measure which description to keep & which to toss.

  4. A well worded metaphor or simile can work wonders as well.

    Thanks for the link. I'm off to check it out.

  5. Being specific is always a great way to pull the reader into the story!


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