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The Complete Writer:
The Ultimate Guide to Writing, Publishing, and Leading the Writer’s Life
The Importance of Revising and Editing
Reviewing, revising, editing, and polishing your work form a huge part of the process of writing. In fact, revision and editing are key to successful writing. A glance at the steps in the writing process reveals the large part revision plays. Everything above the §§§ section break §§§ represents the initial drafting. Everything below it represents the steps successful writers take to produce good copy.
Fact and content gathering
- May entail research, interviewing, exploring, observing, remembering, thinking, reflecting, imagining
Considering the facts
- Checking your facts for accuracy
- Organizing them, listing or placing them in some reasonably logical order
- Considering the audience, debating what is of interest or importance to readers
- Reflecting on the tone, organization, language appropriate to audience and subject
- Putting the material into words
§§§ Cooling-off Time §§§
- Rereading the document
- May involve discussion with an advisor or editor; may be interior discussion
- Taking notes, marginal notations, etc.
- You may want to do a “quick revision” here and then have a trustworthy reader review and comment on the draft at this point.
Returning to the draft: Revising
- Rewriting the material with the reconsideration and discussion in mind.
- Recasting language to make it more understandable, more appropriate, or more engaging
- Adding material
- Deleting material
Reconsideration and discussion II
- Reviewing the draft again
- Discussing it with a trusted reader, if you have not already done so
- Revising the organization and making changes suggested by reader
Returning to the draft: Revising
- Rereading and listening to the composition
- Incorporating new ideas from discussion, reflection
- Polishing language, style, organization
- Polishing, getting grammar, spelling, punctuation right
- Sometimes minor reorganizing
As you can see, gathering or inventing material for the content and drafting the basic composition amounts to about half—at the most—of the whole job of writing. In other words, at least half and often more than half of the job involves revision and polishing!
Most people find it easier and more workable to separate the revision and editing processes, since they require two different kinds of thinking. Let’s start with revising, then. I will share with you some of my techniques, and then I’ll offer some ideas described by Peter Elbow in his book, Writing with Power.¹ If you are seriously interested in writing, you should read this work.
¹Peter Elbow, Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.