Revision is next to godliness

To write is human, to edit is divine

Stephen King 

As much as I’d love to say that a perfect piece of prose can be obtained from a first draft, the truth of the matter is that good writing lays within the revision, editing, proofreading and analysis of a piece. Like a good curry, a well rounded piece of writing needs time to develop its own character, brew and settle. The following strategies may prove useful as you revise your next piece of writing.

  • Give it time. Revision over time will assist in organising your piece, ensuring that the theme and message you intended to share shines clearly. Even a few hours will give you a fresh perspective and draw you away from being too close to your work.
  • Start at the Start. Evaluate your introduction, ensuring that it grabs the readers attention, forms strong images or evokes the senses in order to draw interest.
  • Check the structure. Assess how you have organised your storyline and ensure that it leads your reader through a clear line of images and thoughts. Check you have done more show than tell!
  • Surf with the flow. If readers have to struggle up your stream of consciousness, its likely they will drown. Make it easy for your readers by creating smooth transitions and segues between paragraphs and interactions between characters.
  • Remove repetitive or habitual language structures. Particularly with flash fiction, every word must fight for its right to stay within the story. Every writer is guilty of favourite phrases and repetitive details. Revise any word repetition within sentences, replacing with alternative images or ways of expressing these ideas.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness. In a few words, write the theme or message of your work down on a separate piece of paper. Re-read your story and review its effectiveness in expressing this theme or message. Where could it be boosted? Where does it fall short of delivering?
  • Proofread. After you have made your initial content alterations, use a spellchecker to catch the errors and slowly read your work out loud to find grammar and syntax faults.  Printing your piece out will identify spelling and spacing errors quickly. 

Revision literally means to “see again” or to look at it from a new perspective. It’s an ongoing, organic methodology which gets easier with practice and experience.

Rewriting is the essence of writing well—where the game is won or lost.

William Zinsser 


4 thoughts on “Revision is next to godliness

  1. “Remove repetitive or habitual language structures.” Hmmm. That’s part of the charm in my writing… well, at least *I* think it is part of the charm. Some days, it feels like it is the ONLY charm in my writing.

  2. Reblogged this on The Kept Life and commented:
    We are all writers, whether you are a fashion/mommy/interior design blogger, we convey our message with words. This is an excellent little piece about revision — as a professional proofreader myself, I can tell you that a good “once over” before hitting the submit/publish button does a world of good! EnJOY!

  3. Essential guidelines for good writing pared down to what is most critical. These are strategies you can remember because they are brief enough to carry in your back pocket – and substantial enough to make a difference in your work. Thank you.

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