Purple Prose + Writing

Toss Those Papers, Babe

When revising, do you find yourself too immersed in your story? Well, I’ve got the perfect game for you that will help you spot the problems on the page you might not otherwise notice.


1. Print off the pages you want to do a more in-depth edit to. It could be a chapter, a few chapters, or the entire book.

2. Toss the pages in the air (or spread them randomly on the floor if bent pages freak you out). Make sure they’re all facing down.

3. Grab a page.

4. Read through it, and mark each line that contains tension (I use a T in the margin). Ideally you want at least one line (but more is better) per page with tension. If you don’t, go through it and increase the tension through dialogue, unanswered questions, action, exposition. That is what’s going to keep your readers turning the pages.

5. Find paragraphs that are begging for more description or emotion (or both). Can the action be improved on? You might not have noticed it before, but now the weaknesses are easy to spot.

6. Is there enough white space? Not enough and your reader’s eyes will glaze over. This can be easily fixed by adding dialogue and breaking up your paragraphs (and trimming them if necessary).

7. Is your dialogue suffering from the talking head syndrome? Add some physical beats to ground your readers and characters in the scene.

8. Did you spot those typos and awkward sentences often missed when you read the pages in order?

9. How’s the pacing?

10. Read the page out aloud and see what else you can find that irritates the hell out of you.

11. Either edit the page now on the computer or save it until you’ve finished marking up all the pages.

13. Pick the next page off the floor. If it’s too close to the one you just edited (I’m referring to page number here), then put it back and randomly select another one.

14. Repeat steps #4 to 13 until you’ve finished all the pages.


You, of course. Now you’re one step closer to having an awesome manuscript.

Any other suggests as to what else to look out for when using this technique?

book, description, dialogue, editing, emotion, space, tension, and more:

Toss Those Papers, Babe + Writing