Writing: Revision Refresher

Writing is rewriting, they say. But new writers often don’t know where to start. Here’s a revision refresher.

Writing Tip for Today: What is a good plan for revision?

Start Loud

If you don’t have a feedback or critique partner or group, put out some feelers online or in face-to-face groups. Join writer’s organizations to meet other writers. Aim for a good mix of genres but look for at least one or two who are writing in a similar genre.

Get into the habit of reading your drafts aloud. We use a different part of the brain to process oral language. Our eyes will often fool us, inserting or changing words. You’ll be able to catch sentences that are awkward and those that seem off topic or extraneous. Mark places as you read to remember any changes you want to make.

Read your work aloud to your feedback group or partner, too. Don’t try to perform your dialogue—funny voices aren’t going to make your writing any better. Read smoothly and slowly enough to suit your peers.

Start Large

For many writers, revision means changing words or deleting or adding text. But wait—I think it makes more sense to look at the overall structure, theme or purpose first. You won’t want to work on nits before you correct any illogical or off topic places.

Know what you want to say. In a scene, there’s usually a main purpose. In nonfiction the point or take away is critical. After reading aloud, review your purpose or theme. Have you veered away? Or have you discovered a better message or purpose in your draft?

Big Picture revision helps you refine your target message to readers. First, provide an interesting hook, then build your argument or purpose and last, poise a character to act in the next scene. For nonfiction, you’ll want a final “take away” that readers can understand.

Big Picture revision helps you define what message to readers that you’re targeting.

Do LittleS

After you’ve remedied any structural flaws and finetuned your point or message, you’re ready for the small stuff. Begin at the paragraph level: are there graphs that aren’t pulling their weight? Eliminate or rewrite them.

Move on to sentence construction. Check for passive voice and gerund constructions (was ing). Replace with active and precise verbs. Do many of your sentences begin the same way? Vary them.

Last, you can pay attention to the “ly” adverbs, use of general descriptors (many, small, tiny, huge, etc). When the nits are fixed, put down your work for a few days. Then get it back out and start over at the top.

What part of revision gives you the most trouble?


About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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