Revising: No Rules, Just (Get It) Right

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.

Elmore Leonard quote on typewriter

Photo by plaisanter via CC BY-SA 2.0 // text & effect added by author

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!

FREE Download –> The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Revising Review

Do you revise first, then edit? Or do you do them together?

How long does the revising phase take you (compared to the other parts of the process)?

Share your best revising tips for our readers!

Cheers,
Jaime

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The Power of the (Red) Pen

“To write is human, to edit is divine.”  -Stephen King

When I was in school, there was nothing I hated more than the red pen. Teachers would use it to correct mistakes on your paper and make suggestions. As a perfectionist, I attributed any red marks to failure, which was not high on my to-do list. As much as I hated the red pen, I now understand its importance.

Revise, revise, revise!

Maybe I still haven’t gotten over the sting of the red pen in school. I use black, even for revisions.

The basic writing process has five steps: prewriting (thinking/outlining), writing, revising (rewriting), editing and publishing. Did you notice that 40% of the writing process is dedicated to revising and editing? That’s why, in my humble opinion, it’s the most important aspect of writing. All of the steps are necessary, but not doing a proper job of revising and editing your work will turn readers away. Have you ever read an article that goes on forever — well past its point? Or a blog post saddled with poor grammar and spelling errors? It’s enough to make me walk away.

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” -Stephen King

What makes me want to read your work (and others too)?

  • Revise, revise and revise some more. Eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Strong punctuation and grammar. A lack of one or both makes reading difficult.
  • White space (especially on screen). Use short paragraphs, quotes, images and lists for easier reading.
  • Reduce your adverb dependency. These suckers lead to passive writing and empty word use.
  • A clear point. What are you trying to say?

“The biggest illusion about communication is that it’s taking place.”  -George Bernard Shaw

Yes, rules are made to be broken, but you have to know the rules first. The more that you know (and follow) the “rules” of writing, the easier your writing will be to read. So what are these rules? They differ depending on who you talk to or what you’re writing, but Mr. King’s Top 20 Rules For Writers are a great place to start.

More people are expected to write today than ever before (social media, blogging, etc.), and some just aren’t comfortable with it. I hope this post and upcoming series on the writing process will help. (p.s. Fellow writers, feel free to chime in along the way!)

Of course, I love writing. If you don’t, let me know. I’d be happy to help.

FREE Download –> The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Reader Feedback

What are your most important rules of writing?

Is there a rule that you routinely break?

When did you start writing?

Who’s your favorite writer?

A writer at heart,
Jaime

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