The Chase
DiAnn Mills

Award-winning author DiAnn Mills is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn’s first book was published in 1998. She currently has more than fifty books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also the Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Website:

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Reducing Flab

Ever read something you wrote one year ago, six months ago, or yesterday and cringe? Everything from word choice, descriptions, characters, plotting, and setting screamed back at you. I bet you even checked to make sure you actually wrote the piece. That was because we are always changing, growing, and learning the craft. Our job as writers is not limited to merely creating a manuscript, but we have a responsibility to edit and revise. We have a responsibility to the publisher to offer our very best, which means we cut the flab and reduce our writing, using clarity and preciseness as our weights.

The edits and revisions of our manuscript are the diet and exercise of molding our work into a sculptured piece, one that we are proud to submit. Sol Stein wrote: “Unwillingness to revise usually signals an amateur.”

Revision is an exciting challenge—an adventure to make our writing more powerful. Look forward to it, because revision and editing provide an opportunity to make your creation better and eventually the best.

Penelope Stokes refers to revision as a humbling experience. How much better for the writer to catch the poor grammar, manuscript construction, plot failures, and inconsistencies than an editor who tosses our work back at us.

I highly recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. This book teaches clarity and conciseness in an easy and understandable manner.

Rule number one is don’t revise while you write. Finish a scene, a chapter, or even the entire story before switching to editor mode. Creating a story uses the left side of your brain. Revision uses the right side. While writing the first draft, no matter how clean, the writer is learning about the story and its characters.

Regarding the number of times you edit or rewrite: only the writer can make that determination. A critique group or partner will help the writer see blind spots.

My routine is simple. Perhaps it will help you.

1. Write strong copy from the beginning.
2. Each day reread the previous day’s writing and make edits.
3. Make notes after each scene, indicating what clues or threads will need to be addressed before the book is completed.
4. After the first doorway or 20,000 words or so, read the story again to ensure you’re being true to the premise and characters. Edit and make notes.
5. When the first draft is completed, read through the story for flow, often editing. (This is when I begin sending chapters to my critique partners.)
6. Let the story sit for as long as possible. (Two months is my goal.)
7. Use text-to-voice software for each chapter. This allows you to hear the story, the flow of the plot, characterization, and sentence rhythm. Sometimes you’ll catch grammar and punctuation inconsistencies. (I have a Mac and use Ghostreader, but Adobe has text-to- voice in their software.)
8. Read the story one more time.

The following items will help you find problem areas during the self-editing process.

Active Voice

Strive to make sentences active. Many times “to be” verbs make a sentence passive. Remember “as” and “ing” words tend to make a sentence passive.

Avoid Clichés

Create your own metaphors and similes.


Start with a strong hook.
Does story begin with lead character’s name and his/her current situation?

Chapter Hooks

Toss out the best sentence that hooks your reader into your story.


Hero, heroine, or protagonist

What is it about them that you like or dislike?
Is there a positive and negative trait that is not yours?
If you were to spend a vacation with the hero or heroine, what about them would appeal to you?

Villain or antagonist

Is the character truly evil or badly behaved?
What is the one trait that gives the character redeeming quality?
Sol Stein states that no villain can attract victims unless he has charm, charisma, position, or wealth.


Use a calendar to keep track of your chapters (

Conflict and Tension


Make sure names and unique words are spelled the same throughout the manuscript. Consult The Chicago Manual of Style or your publisher’s house style guide to know which numbers should be spelled out and which require using numerals.

Cut Extra Words

Be clear and concise.


Make it clear and tight.
Punctuate it correctly.
Do you need a tag?
Do you need a beat?

Emotional Conflict

Do you have emotional conflict in every paragraph? Every line?

Examine Plot

Have you asked the four crucial questions regarding each scene?


Have you written with a clear genre in mind?
How do you want the story to feel to the reader (creepy, brooding, inspirational, etc.)?


Invest in a grammar guide or English book.
Avoid dangling participles and misplaced modifiers.


Is it tight?
Are there holes?
Tied up all the threads?

Pronoun Preference

Make sure the reader knows what noun the pronoun stands for.


Avoid repeated phrases.
Don’t insult the reader by telling more than once.
*Sometimes used for emphasis


Rate every scene in your book.
Each one should propel the story forward, constantly building conflict and tension.
Make sure the first and last lines in each scene are strong.
Check for smooth transitions.

Sensory Perception

Does each scene use all the senses?

Sentence Order

Count the symbols with single syllable words first: beans, cabbage, and tomatoes instead of huckleberries, pear, and a banana.
Count the number of words. He enjoyed green beans, deep fried onion rings, and buttered corn-on-the cob.
If all of the items have the same number of syllables, then consider their position in the alphabet.
Exception to this is chronological order, obvious sequence, familiar sequence, and unintended modifiers.

Sometimes the way we are accustomed to hearing items in a list contradicts the above guidelines. If the items in your list do not sound appropriate when you adhere to this rule, change them so they are acceptable.

Tea with lunch, dinner, and breakfast should be tea with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Cream and peaches should be peaches and cream.
The bees and the birds (alphabetical sequence) should be the birds and the bees.
Gold, myrrh, and frankincense should be gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


Research more than you think you will ever use.
Fictitious towns are best.
Map out your town ahead of time, filling in street names, residential, business, etc.

Vary Sentence Length

Do your sentences have rhythm?

Word Choice

William Shakespeare wrote: “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.”

Unintended Modifiers

Make sure all of your modifiers modify what you intend.

Writer Termites:

Beginning sentences with “There” or “It.”
Do a global search in your manuscript for:
ly with a space after it
ly with a period after it

Is your story filled with muscle? If not, head to the weight room with power booster determination. Your characters will thank you for it.


The Chase