Rewriting: 7 Simple Tips – Part Two


A book is made in the rewrite. We take the words and begin to refine and reshape them into the finished book. We compose the first draft quickly, getting the words down on paper as they flow. Then we begin the work of rewriting.

Here are our final four tips on rewriting with examples from The Shepherd’s Song. You can read the first three tips here.

4. Watch out for the word “felt” when describing a character’s feelings.  Remember the old saying: show don’t tell.

FIRST DRAFT: She felt confused and out of control.  

This is okay for a first draft but needs rewriting.

FINAL DRAFT: “What’s your name?”

She tried to focus. Her name?

“Kate . . . McConnell.” She gasped out each word.

“Your birthday?”

She tried to come up with the answer, but it was too confusing. Tears welled up.

“It’s all right. Just stay with me.”

“What hap…?” She wanted to finish the sentence but could not.

5. Eliminate prepositional phrases that tell us about the character or action.

FIRST DRAFT:  Without hesitation the nurses joined Dr. Belding in pushing the stretcher toward the elevators.

Instead of telling the reader “without hesitation,” why not put the scene in play and show them?

FINAL DRAFT:  Dr. Belding grabbed the end of the stretcher. “Okay, people. Let’s get her down to the OR.” He turned to the nurse. “Has the family been called?”


6. Watch out for the word “saw.” Show us what the character is seeing instead.

FIRST DRAFT: He slipped the phone out of his pocket and saw the text message from his dad.

We don’t need to explain that the character saw something.  Show it from the character’s POV.

FINAL DRAFT:  Matt slipped the phone out of his pocket.

‘Emergency. Call me.’

A text from his dad. That was unusual.

7. Evaluate each adverb. Is there a better way to show the reader what is happening?

FIRST DRAFT: John McConnell looked up in irritation at his secretary.  

“I said hold all calls,” he said impatiently.  

Telling reminds the reader that it is not real. Staying in the character’s head means we show through the character’s actions what is happening, and how they are feeling. We had to rewrite to show his impatience.

FINAL DRAFT: “Mr. McConnell. A phone call, line three.” His secretary spoke from the doorway.

“I said to hold all calls.” He continued scanning the document in front of him.

“I know, but.”

“I am well aware that we all need to get out of here.”


These simple tips help us with our writing. Do you have others to share?

Betsy and Laurie

Grunge ornamental cover for an album with photos

15 Replies to “Rewriting: 7 Simple Tips – Part Two”

      1. Most recently I’ve been using it to catch all my double spaces after periods and replace them with single spaces! Just found out recently there should only be one space.

      1. Actually, I’m very unimpressed with how she uses adverbs, especially on speaker tags. Possibly that’s because she’s supposedly writing for children. Check out the first few books and you’ll find she uses an adverb about on 2/3 to 3/4 of the speaker tags. It’s not quite as frequent on the last three books, maybe down to 1/2 of the tags.

        If I listen to the rule on the prohibition of adverbs, I must conclude Rowling does it incorrectly. The success of the series tells me otherwise, however. Criticizing successful writers by we who are unsuccessful is rampant. My point isn’t that I think Rowling’s use of adverbs is wrong, but that I think the rule against adverbs, and probably other modifiers, is way overstressed by those who teach writing.

      2. Thanks, David.

        Good point. I think the value of these tips and other rules is not to limit what we can do with our words as writers but to make us be intentional about our word choices.

        When we were writing children’s books there was a “rule” that children’s books should not be longer than 100 pages. Rowling was one of the first to break that rule and change ideas about what children would read.

        I always been a little in awe of her rule-breaking and her great success in connecting with readers.

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