I think the three most important parts of the writing process are:
1. Actually finishing a draft.
2. Revising the draft (which is different than editing).
3. Finding someone else to read it and give you feedback.
I talked about the importance of finishing drafts on Saturday. Today’s post is all about revision. Understanding the writing process in a general way is important, but understanding what works for you is even more important. Once we get down to details, every writer’s process is unique. I suggest finding a writing process that allows you to play to your strengths and overcome your weaknesses.
I outlined my own writing process in detail not long after I started this blog (apologies for the awfulness of the graphic). The first thing I do to a draft before I even think about real revision is cut words. That’s because I’m wordy — it’s a real weakness for me, so I have a step in my personal writing process just to compensate for it.
Once I get to the real revision stage, I’m asking myself these sorts of questions:
- Is my language appropriate for my audience and purpose?
- Have I organized this piece of writing in a logical way?
- Is there any part of this that I could remove entirely without changing the quality of the writing or the message I’m communicating?
- Is it well-paced?
- For Fiction: Are my characters acting like real people? Do they have motivations and weaknesses? Are they just doing what they’re doing to make the plot work?
These are the sorts of issues I deal with in revision. Questions that might require a wholesale rewrite. You have to be willing to do wholesale rewrites if you want to get better. Revision is not about fixing your punctuation and grammar — that’s editing, and it should be the last thing you do.
Editing a piece of writing before you’re sure you have a mostly-finished draft is a waste of productivity. What if you spend half an hour editing a page of text, then decide later to cut the whole thing? Just wasted 30 minutes of your finite life fixing grammar and punctuation that will never matter to anyone, is what you did.
Revision is important. It is what turns mediocre writing into good writing, and good writing into great.