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!

22 Replies to “Revision Trick: Fooling Yourself”

  1. 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. 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. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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. 🙂

  7. That’s so funny. Just today I did this by accident as I prepared to send my MS to my critique group after having revised it for an hour. It was amazing! I found a bunch of typos, got rid of unnecessary words and I was much happier with the end result.

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