Before You Revise—Six Key Pointers


Photography by Shawn Campbell via Flickr Creative Commons

All works need revision—that final nip and tuck, spit and polish that makes writing sing. Before you begin the process (or start procrastinating), take a few moments to review the pointers below. They will help you flex your editing muscles.

1. Revision begins with re-vision, a stepping back to determine if you’ve delivered on the promise of your piece. Almost always there will be something you need or want to change. Welcome the opportunity, for it gives you a second chance to “deliver the goods.”

2. No work is perfect, nor should it be. Revision is what allows you to hone your skills and improve the quality of your work. If you’re serious about writing, this is an incredible opportunity.

3. Don’t just stand (or sit) there, do something, be it to change a phrase or reorder a chapter. Once you get going, the momentum builds. With momentum comes confidence and competency.

4. Forget completion. Nothing you write will ever reach that stage. That’s because you change with time, along with your perspective. To go back into a piece ad infinitum doesn’t serve you or your work. So stop nit-picking and move on.

5. Don’t go it alone if you feel truly blocked or lost. Have some trusted “critics” step in. Don’t ask them to tell you whether or not they liked your work. That’s far to general. Rather, pinpoint the conceptual issues or matters of style that have you stumped. Only when you tell them what to look for will they find it—and then offer constructive suggestions. (You can learn ways to do this in the blog post 10 Ways to Request—and Receive—Constructive Criticism.)

6. Take a break. Revision, like writing, is not something you force. Accordingly, come up for air. Go for a walk, hang out with a friend, re-pot a plant. Gain perspective. Fresh eyes lead to fresh writing, which is the goal of all revision.

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