Revision can be a daunting task that seems endless. Changing a piece that you have worked so hard on can be emotionally taxing and finding a final place to end can seem impossible. I consider it the hardest part of writing and used to postpone it so long that I have a folder full of work labeled ‘To Be Revised (ASAP)’ which I have not touched for months. I have personally made it a goal to focus on revising more and a few different techniques have proved particularly helpful.
I always start with an outside reader who I ask to read just for general meaning. What is this piece saying? What stands out as the main point or goal of the piece? The questions answered by someone less invested in what I have written so far, help me see if I am writing what I really want to say. An impartial eye can be essential to seeing the reality of what you have written and if it doesn’t match with your goal, changing it is easier.
Next, I let it sit. After the first round of revision, I have usually convinced myself that my work is not perfect (it never is). Stepping away for as long as I can, working on other things, or even just taking a break and reading a book or watching TV, helps me distance emotionally and mentally from my writing. This is important to me, because a vital step in version is deciding what to cut. As much as we would like to be and sometimes think we are, none of us are capable of spouting brilliance with every line. Coming to terms with the fact that a lot of what I write simply isn’t good has been the best thing I have done for my writing.
After the painful but necessary elimination stage, I like to step back and consider the piece as a whole again. It is saying what I want it to, and I am happy with the quality of the individual sentences I have kept, but how is the structure? Is it balanced? Is the plot or thought progression consistent? How is it to read: are sections too dense or too too simple? And finally, is it ready yet? If any of these questions indicate a need for further revision I either get to it or repeat my first two steps.
These are just some ideas, my favorite techniques, but there are endless ways to revise. My favorite thing to do is save first drafts and compare how they were to the end product. I have never regretted the changes I make. Revision as a common practice among writers did not really take off until recently, but it seems essential in producing my best work. Whether you experience the same relief or end up liking your original work better, revision is a priceless opportunity to push yourself and your work and can a beneficial exercise in finding the best way to say what you mean.
About the author: I am a book-obsessed, college student living and studying out of the back of my truck. As an English major, I spend most of my days reading and writing but still grab every chance I can do it for fun!