Revision Trick: Fooling Yourself

In moments of deep, dark, cookie-dough-scarfing despair, some writers wonder in their most secret of secret hearts whether they’re just fooling themselves. Unless you’ve got robot circuitry at your core or are an extreme narcissist (sometimes I envy egotistical robots), you’ve been there.

For me, the cookie-dough-scarfing depths of writerly depression usually come during the revision process. Writing the first draft was so free, so easy! Discovery at every turn! That process is what I like to call First Draft Goggles. Like beer goggles, that first draft euphoria can sure make everything look great.

Then comes the crushing hangover: revision. You’ve got to look at the thing you enjoyed so much during the first draft. You feel sick. There’s a bile taste creeping up your throat. “Did I really just write that?”

And here it comes, the big question: “Am I really just fooling myself with this writing thing?”

Well, here’s a nifty trick that I learned from David Morrell, a very seasoned writer. He took me under his wing at a conference one time and gave me a very simple, very effective tip. It truly was a “duh!” moment:

Every time you think you’re done with something, change the font, print it out and read it again.

This is a trick I like to use when I’m fairly far into my revision process, but I’ve found it helps with anything that’s getting you stuck. When you change the font, you’re more likely to slow down and read it more carefully, since your eyes aren’t as used to how the words look on the page or screen. Glaring errors and things that don’t sound right tend to stand out much more.

Some writers like to read a page bottom to top for much the same effect. That gives me a headache, so I just change the font. I like to go from Times New Roman to Courier New or, if I’m feeling extra frisky, Arial.

Try it and see what you think. This is literally a way to fool yourself into paying more careful attention and not getting complacent with your draft. Sometimes, fooling yourself is actually a good thing!

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  1. Paulette’s avatar

    I’m surprised no one ever commented on this. This nifty trick helped me eliminate some awkward phrases and find some typos. I’m going to go try it on my query letter before I enter your contest :)

  2. Siski Green’s avatar

    This is a fantastic tip. I’m trawling through your posts backwards (which seems appropriate, after reading this post!) because I can’t seem to work out any other way to do it. Is there somewhere your posts are listed with the titles? Perhaps I’m just being a tech doughnut, but I can’t see a site map anywhere.

  3. Ryan Ashley Scott’s avatar

    Love it. It’s so hard to read something two hundred times and still try to see it differently. What a fantastic tip.

  4. Rhiannon Hart’s avatar

    This tip rocks! I love when you repost things because I’ve only just happened along your blog.

  5. Mary’s avatar

    Rhiannon — Thanks. I try to keep reminding readers of the old stuff, too, since I post on evergreen topics that are always going to be relevant.

  6. JennW’s avatar

    This is by far my favorite trick too. I’ve been doing this for some time and it helps so much!

  7. JoAnn’s avatar

    That’s was a great little post and a valuable tool we can all use.

  8. Sonja’s avatar

    I printed my MS in a new font and found a few mistakes I’d overlooked 15 times! This trick really does allow for a fresh look.

  9. Mary’s avatar

    I. LOVE. THIS. TIP.

    Gonna try it today.

  10. Rondi Olson’s avatar

    I also like having my computer read my book to me. There are some great free reader programs, you can sure hear mistakes you can’t see.

  11. josh.ferrin’s avatar

    Great idea. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who goes through second-draft depression. Thank goodness for Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby.

  12. Joanie’s avatar

    Would using Comic Sans be too ridiculous? Might be worth trying on a serious piece just to see how emotional you’re making your reader. :) Love this tip! I’m going to try it with my next draft!

  13. Amanda Morgan’s avatar

    I am totally doing this RIGHT NOW.

  14. Janie Bill’s avatar

    Well, you got the fool aspect of my writing correct. But how did you know about the cookie dough?

  15. Emily White’s avatar

    Oooh! I LOVE this tip!

  16. Brianna Frehner’s avatar

    Great article and I love the tip. I’m still in first draft euphoria {as of today} so this article was perfect timing for me. :)

  17. PragmaticMom’s avatar

    It’s those simple tricks that are pure genius! Thanks for such a great tip. I just sent it to my author friend!

  18. Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod’s avatar

    I love this idea. Never heard it before or I would have swiped it for my upcoming book about self-editing kidlit. :-)

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