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Small Improvements

February 11, 2013 by Kiersi

Final stage revising is all about the tiny improvements. Selecting the right word for the right location, moving dialogue tags to give the dialogue more oomph, sprinkling in more thoughtful observations and edgy humor.

Here is a selection of bits and pieces from my August book release (the first book in the Fire and Brimstone series) that were changed, added, or improved in this final polish-oriented revision:

Girls were screaming. Not guy-in-a-hockey-mask screams, but the screams of fanatic teenagers mobbing a rock star just before a show.

An important distinction.

I had to admire Rain, striding into the cameras, oblivious to the sound of beetle jaws snapping her everlasting likeness.

I never thought of cameras or cameramen as having such a peculiar likeness to beetles until Mockingjay.

The sky had a strange milky-gray pallor, like it had had too much to drink the night before.

A British friend added, “Or bad tea.”

Weston is already stirring things up at the office. Tad acted all morning like a giant inflatable tube-guy in an auto dealership parking lot, flailing around and stressing everyone out.

This was actually inspired by an episode of The Simpsons. I think Homer gets one of those tube guys.

“It just doesn’t make sense! He read one of your assignments and—”

“Hey, girls.”

Veronica’s entire body stopped moving, like someone had pressed pause.

“H-h-hey, Everett.” She recovered miraculously as Everett slid in next to me on the bench. “What’s up? You’re looking good. I mean, your hair is looking good. I mean, the rest of you is OK, too. In fact it’s more than—”

“Thanks,” he said, interrupting her. He turned to me. “What are you up to this weekend? Brandy’s dad’s out of town and she’s having a big party on Saturday night.”

Veronica’s face fell. “We didn’t hear anything about a party.”

In this draft, Veronica became “Ronnie,” making her both more personable and also more dorky. I amped up her bitch meter but in a funny, almost likable way. She has so much more character and personality now–perfect for a supporting character.

I took a couple hours off from this final revision sprint to make a little sculpture tribute to Pendleton Ward, creator of the fabulous TV show for kids and adults, Adventure Time. (Seriously, if you are ever lacking in ideas while writing children’s lit, this is the show for you.)

Remember, taking breaks and using your mind in new and unfamiliar ways is important to a creative lifestyle!


  1. I love how small changes can make such a big difference. Love the little guy you created, too. So cute!

  2. Michael Pearce says:

    I laughed out loud at those excerpts, especially flailing like a giant inflatable tube guy. I remember that Simpsons! And “Veronica’s entire body stopped moving, like someone had pressed pause” was perfectly descriptive.

  3. M. Ziegler says:

    Well aren’t you artsy 🙂 Too bad if I tried to make a little clay guy by toddler would kill him. I love the final edits too. You are right. The smallest changes will make a huge difference!

    • Kiersi says:

      Ha! My biggest concern is cat hair getting into my sculptures. I used to do a lot more of these when I was less busy, so it’s nice to go back every so often.

      I’m glad you like them! I can only hope my editor does, too. *fingers crossed*

  4. Jim Snell says:

    Would have liked to have seen the “before” to see what the minor changes actually were. Loved the arm-flailing guy. Think I used to work with him. Except he was a her. Annoying. Should’ve been working outside some tire store.

    • Kiersi says:

      Most of them were straight-up additions! I would cut boring observations and add new ones that were fun and interesting. I guess “revision” for me is a lot more like “rewriting” 🙂

  5. Writerlious says:

    My favorite: “Not guy-in-a-hockey-mask screams, but the screams of fanatic teenagers mobbing a rock star just before a show.”

    So awesome! 🙂

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