Ten Revision Bugaboos by Mary Lawrence

Ten Revision Bugaboos by Mary Lawrence


An author works months on a manuscript and the satisfaction from typing that final period is certainly worth a celebration. However, the sense of relief and joy is short-lived for me. I’ve written five books in my Bianca Goddard mystery series, but before I show my manuscript to a beta reader or editor, I take the time to comb through it and look for these bugaboos that creep into my writing. You may have your own list of problems to scout for, but here are some of mine.

Repetitive words, descriptions, or actions. How many times have I had a character “grab” an item? Why can’t he “lift”, “take”, “seize”, “select”, “remove”, “steal”, or “snatch”, instead?

I have a favorite author who also writes historical mysteries and in nearly every book “clouds are scudding across the sky.” Look for these repetitive phrases because careful readers will notice them.

How many cups of coffee were made by the protagonist in The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrson?  Blomkvist makes a cup of coffee whenever the action needs to slow down. Unfortunately, that is what I remember most about the story.

Overused gestures. Beware of characters who nod, purse their lips, raise their eyebrows, and incline their heads.

Just say it already! How many folks “begin to …” Just have them do it!

In a moment…suddenly  Think of other ways to convey a short passage of time and limit yourself to one “suddenly” per manuscript.

It’s and Its…sometimes you just need to pay attention.

Name spelling…decide how to spell a character or place name and be consistent.


Oh, well, and so…stop beginning a dialogue with these lead words. You might think these words make dialogue seem more natural, but actually, they dampen the point of the exchange. Try to avoid them.

Cut unnecessary dialogue attributions and explanations. Authors shouldn’t need to explain to the reader what a character meant or who said it.

Several paragraphs in a row starting with the same first word. Maybe not so onerous if your paragraphs are long enough, but try for some variety.

There… do be aware that its use can deaden a good sentence. For instance: There were several who cried. Change this to Several cried.

Certainly, every writer has their own particular bugaboos that they should take the time to clean from their manuscript.

My suggestions are meant as a self-editing starter for polishing your manuscript before you send it to others to finish the job. What are some of your bugaboos?

Mary Lawrence is the author of the Bianca Goddard Mysteries set in Tudor London during the final years of King Henry VIII’s reign. The series features the daughter of an alchemist who solves murders using a bit of chemistry, her wits, and alchemy. Mary lives in Maine and also runs a berry farm. Two of her mysteries have been named by Suspense Magazine as the best historical mystery of the year. Her forthcoming mystery, The Lost Boys of London, releases April 28. For more information go to https://www.marylawrencebooks.com

You can follow the author at https://www.facebook.com/marylawrence.author/

Or https://twitter.com/mel59lawrence

Buy links:   https://amzn.to/2XnzFkS

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