I admit it. I fall into the trap all the time. When I go back to revise a chapter or a scene, I drop my cursor right in the middle of the offending sentence and make the changes. I hop around, tweaking sentences, and buffing up verbs. Yet when I read the writing back, it still has that sour dull taste it had going into the revision process.
What went wrong?
Mostly, it’s a flow issue. When I need to make substantial changes, jumping in and surgically altering select words won’t cut it. I need to bite the bullet and rewrite the whole section. It doesn’t mean I trash everything. At least not at first.
I tap the return key a few times to create some white space. Then I rewrite the section, glancing down to see the bits I liked. What’s the point, you ask. Well, as I add in the edits, this changes the quality of the writing. If often find that the words come out a little different typing them again. There’s a natural flow to the writing that can only be achieved by typing it over again.
I’m not a masochist, though. I do copy and paste sections back in. In fact, I keep multiple versions of my manuscripts. I have this odd knack to remember a certain phrase from a draft months ago. I’ll dive in, find it, and graft it into the current writing. Usually I end up rewriting this bit so that it too flows well.
Once upon a time, I used to write everything longhand on yellow legal pads. Man, would my hand ache. I did this so that when I typed it in, I could revise on the fly, making changes and edits as I went. It worked well, except for the aching muscles.
Bottom line, don’t think you’re saving time by changing a word here and there. Ultimately your edits have to jive with the piece as a whole. Sometimes, rewriting is the best way to revise.