Need a Writing Makeover?

April 21, 2013

susan-boyle-makeoverThere is nothing more amazing than seeing a major transformation right before your eyes. Makeovers are the best example of this phenomenon.

Like this one of Susan Boyle. Who knew that she could actually look adorable with some hair coloring, a great cut, and some make up?

This is also true of writing. Once you’ve poured out your thoughts and gotten it down, you go back and look at it. Then you throw up. At least, that’s what I do when I read what I’ve written.

But seriously…the benefit of having someone else read your writing, even after you’ve edited it, is that you can’t always see the forest for the trees. You’re too close. Another set of eyes is what you need.

Here are some examples of writing makeovers that I’ve done for a few of my clients. In some cases I’ve totally changed the sentences but you get the idea:

Telling Instead of Showing

Before: The look on my sister-in-law’s face was priceless.

After: My sister-in-law looked like she had just eaten a bologna and mayonnaise sandwich that had been sitting in the sun for 10 hours.

Every writer makes this mistake in the beginning. It is easy to tell the reader what to think but much harder to show it. This takes practice, and a lot of it. I try to stop and close my eyes and visualize what it is I’m trying to describe. Then I write it that way.


Before: “I’m 21,” I lied. I wondered if he would believe me.

After: “I’m 21,” I said wondering if he’d believe me.

The context here is a story where an 18 year-old girl goes into a bar to meet someone. We already know from the narrative earlier that she’s younger than 21 so the writer doesn’t need to say, “I lied,” when the main characters says it. Sometimes it helps to go back to the previous paragraphs and check to make sure you’re not being redundant.

Inconsistent Verb Tense

Before: The duck lives a dull, boring life in the pond behind the barn. One day, the old farmer took the duck to a new exciting place called the fair. The duck sees trees whizzing by as he sits in the cage in the back of the truck.

After: The duck lived an uneventful life in the pond behind the barn. One day, the old farmer took the duck to a place called The Fair. The duck fluffed up his feathers as he watched the trees whizzing by from his cage in the back of the truck.

It’s important to decide how you want to tell your story. Is it in the present? Meaning that it’s happening right now and the reader is in the action with the characters. Or is it being told as if it already happened? In this children’s story, it felt more like the story was being told rather than happening in real time so I changed it to the past tense.

Hope you were able to see a few transformations from this Writing Makeover. I’ll be posting this as a regular feature from time to time. Lucky you! 😉

Do you have any examples of your writing makeovers? I’d love to hear about them! Please share in the comments below. 

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