#summersparks Thursday Thinking: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story


9 Ways to Tighten Your Story


Donna Earnhardt wrote a terrific post, Burning Down the House, that covered how reading out loud helps to revise. Then, saputnam had a great comment about how she color-codes her submissions, and that reminded me of another way to revise. Then that got me to thinking of other ways to revise. That lead me to thinking, just how !any ways are there to revise. Here’s my list:

  • Read out loud (thanks Donna)
    This not only gets your brain working, but your ears as well. You will stutter and stumble over words and phrases that are out of place and don’t belong.
  • Read backwards (thanks again Donna)
    This will help see gaps in your plot, where you need to rearrange or add to build the right sequence.
  • Read to an audience (Donna is the bomb)
    This is where you can see how people react. Did they laugh? Was there an Ah-ha! moment.
  • Observe a reading.
    Here’s where you combine watching you audience reactions with listening to the story to see of things are off, Make notes. Don’t have a reader? Record yourself and play it back.
  • Highlight your text.
    Use different colors for dialog, action, passive texts. This will give you a color-coded visual of your story.
  • Cut up text and place in a storyboard.
    This will show pacing. you can see where there are holes and where text !at be too heavy.
  • Draw it out. (thanks Alison)
    You can also use doodles of your text to make sure your story is moving forward and hasn’t stalled out. In picture books, every word counts!
  • Draw a story arc. (thanks Alayne)
    This is also called ‘The W Factor’ or ‘The Heartbeat of the Story’ and shows pacing well too. Here you go up and down determined by the conflicts and resolutions -aka Cause and Effect– of your story.
  • Read, read, read.
    Yes read your story, parts of your story, and then read it some more. Make it flow effortlessly!
  • Set it aside.
    How is this revision?Think of wine, if you taste it right away, sure it will be good, but if you put it away. Don’t open it. The body develops. When you taste it again, there will be notes that highlight the flavor. The body will be fuller. It will be like tasting it for the first time. The same can happen with your story. You will have separated yourself from the text and can see it with fresh eyes. Mistakes will pop out. Things will make you smile. You will get the goosies when you read THE LINE.

So what are some of the ways you revise? Do you have a routine that is different from those listed?

:::Leave a comment:::
Let me know how you tighten a story.


You have one more day to finish qualifying for the raffle prizes!!! All entries must be done by Friday, July 11th, at 11:59 pm, est. THAT’S A WRAP post will explain the steps to qualify!


Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

28 thoughts on “#summersparks Thursday Thinking: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story

  1. Pingback: #summersparks Follow-Up: TIPS | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  2. Pingback: #summersparks and that’s a wrap! | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  3. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 15 BONUS POST: What Songs Rock Your World? by Claire Rudolf Murphy | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  4. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 14: Hope In Your Heart by Carol Gordon Ekster | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  5. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 13: Writing Your Way To A Spark by: Kris Dinnison | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  6. Pingback: #summersparks 12: Persistence by Donna McDine | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  7. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 11: Burning Down the House by Donna Earnhardt | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  8. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line by Kirsti Call | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  9. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 9: Building a Platform by: Tracey M. Cox | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  10. Pingback: #summersparks. DAY 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  11. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 7: Inspiration Station by Susanna Hill | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  12. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 6: The Final Word by Jodi Moore | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  13. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End by Julie Gribble | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  14. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja by Corey Rosen Schwartz | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  15. Pingback: #summersparks Day 3: Cause and Effect by Alayne Kay Christian | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  16. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 2: The Power of Doodling by Alison Hertz | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  17. Pingback: #summersparks DAY 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic by: Kelly Halls | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  18. Fantastic post on revision! I’m planning to make myself a graphic of revision steps/ideas. I’m gong to include all of these. Thanks so much!

  19. Thanks for the list Tracey. I also create a dummy, looking especially for page turns–do I want to turn page? am I dying to turn the next page? or have I lost interest? I look for those to be verbs and try an eliminate as many as possible. I review for the boring words — run, sleep, like…and try to dress them up –dash, snooze, adore. I check out my first and last lines and write as many possibilities as I can think of — then pick the ones that beg me to read the story and leave me feeling satisfied at the end. Thanks for some great SPARKS.

  20. I have found the “Set it Aside” rule you mention to be so much more important than I thought before using it. Even if I know I’m not done, it is sometimes best to put it aside for a week and come back to it. It keeps me from overworking it. I’ve read (somewhere kind of official; I don’t remember where) that one should put it away for 6 months before submitting it because after that amount of time I guess you have been so fully away from it that you can really take it in and figure out what you need to do.

  21. I haven’t done that long of a period, but 1-2 months work too. I unstated what they are saying though. When I get final edits from an editor, I will always see something. Sometimes I can change, sometimes I can’t .

  22. Thanks for the great post, Tracey. I like to set my story aside for a bit and then take another look at it with “fresh” eyes. I find it helps me a lot during the revisions.

  23. I doodle all the time–and sometimes I even sketch out a dummy of my picture book. But reading it aloud is the best tool–and reading it to an audience is even better than that.
    Thanks for a great series of information and tips!!

  24. Pingback: Last Day to qualify for #summersparks | a writers blog by: Tracey M. Cox

  25. Great post, Tracey! My husband was a machinist for over 40 years and when we had a small job shop in the early 70’s I color-coded all the steps on the blueprints so he could see at a glance what needed to be done… and I’ve just transferred it over to my writing. Initially it may take longer, but once you get the hang of it, it is really simple and quick to do. Another tip * I also add the comments/critique advice directly into my manuscript (color-coded of course) so when I go to revise everything is right there at my fingertips.

    I use the “Set It Aside” rule all the time…. if I’m not done with a manuscript but am having problems or feel that something is not quite right, I will set the manuscript aside for a week or two and work on something else. I’m like Jane Yolen, in that I may have 3-4 manuscripts going at the same time and switching back and forth seems to stimulate the old brain cells.

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