You’ve tackled prewriting (in the forest or the bathtub) and burst through the drafting phase like a team taking the field. Whew, we’re done, right? No, now it’s time to revise.
Revising is all about making your work sound right. So read it — to yourself or out loud. (This is where it helps to have some privacy, or you may receive some concerned stares.) Is it easy to read? Are you intrigued? If not, your reader won’t be either.
Now is the time to make your work POP. Spice up your opening line to grab the reader’s attention. Upgrade your word choices and fill in missing details. Remove redundant or empty words and move sentences around if they make more sense elsewhere. You may end up with a drastically different piece or even a shifted message.
As novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard points out above, the best writers aren’t bound by rules. However, they know the rules before they choose to break them, which is a far cry from not knowing the rules in the first place. If something you write is grammatically correct but sounds strange, find another way to say it. Sometimes I use fragments to make a point and fit the tempo of my work, but it’s not on accident. Bottom line: don’t quit revising until your work sounds right.
It can be tough to look at your work with a critical eye. Leave enough time between the drafting and revising phases to see your work in a new light. If you’re on a tight deadline, at least shift focus for a brief period before coming back to your writing in progress. If possible, invite colleagues or peers to review your work. It’s amazing what you can see from a fresh perspective.
p.s. Join us for part 4 of this series on the writing process on Thursday. It’s all about editing!
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Do you revise first, then edit? Or do you do them together?
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