A Checklist to Keep Me Sane

Every time I open my laptop, MISTS stares back at me, the cursor blinking behind my list edited point, as if to say, “Well? What’ve you got for me today?” Some days I tackle it like the NFL word linebacker I am (that’s what a linebacker does, right?), and I get those revisions done like a champ. Other days, like this morning, I open up my laptop only to scream and cry as I stare into the mouth of a beast attempting to eat me.

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But with #PitchWars looming over my shoulder, I can’t have anymore “NOPE” days. The entry date is about three weeks away and I only have a few more chapters to brush up before I do a full once over of the MS for picky details. But those picky details surmount when I look at all 85,000 words. In order to keep my sanity, I’ve made a list because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t use lists to make themselves feel a thousand percent more accomplished? *waits for hands to raise* *doesn’t see any* That’s what I thought.

Quick Revision Checklist: Most of these items will require me to ctrl+f. Become very familiar with that function of your document/program. Find all these words, demolish them, and move on.

  1. Filter words. When I’m done with a chapter I think is looking pretty handsome– hey there, you sexy chapter you– I ctrl+f for the following words: heard, smelled, felt, saw, thought, realized, watched, looked, etc. I don’t cut all of them, but I make sure to tighten the writing and remove the weaker usage of those words.
  2. Stood. When I first heard this from a Tweet by Lynette Labell, I wasn’t sure how effective this was going to be. I tried it and had great success. It turned out that stood, walked, smiled, laughed, etc. tend to be one of two things: crutch words or plain words. I’m definitely not saying get rid of them all because a book without laughter or smiles would rip my heart in two. I’m saying make sure there aren’t too many on a single page or that you’re not making your characters laugh or smile because you have no idea what to write.
  3. Just. Search through your doc for “just” and remove it most of the time. Unless it’s in dialogue, you rarely need to use this word. Again, it can be in your words, but you don’t want to rely on it when you can write in a more interesting way.
  4. Suddenly. K.M. Weiland has a wonderful post about the word “suddenly” that makes a point for itself. Tldr; suddenly has the opposite effect of something actually being sudden. Chop it.
  5. That. It’s usually a word that slips by in my revision process, but I quickly shoo out the door when I’m wrapping up the final product. Give it a look and you’ll see what it does to the writing. Plus it’s usually unnecessary.

There a few other tricks I have, but my top 5 stay solid. As with all writing advice and these five items, it’s all subjective. I never get rid of ALL the words on this list, but I definitely scrub my MS of what I think isn’t necessary.

Good luck fellow hopeful mentees and best of writing to you all!

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