The Art of Revision: Four Strategies to Apply
By Candyce Carden
Poet Juan Ramon Jimenez’s words on the revision process ring true for many writers: “The constant struggle between wanting to be finished and wanting to finish well.”
We want to produce the best writing possible, but on the other hand, we may be tempted to rush through revision so we can move on to that next project or challenge. Don’t do it. Setting aside the time necessary to revise may be the most crucial part of the writing process.
Four Revision Strategies
Today I share four revision strategies that worked well with my college English students who faced intense time pressure but weren’t effective time managers. Does this describe any of you?
1. Save Multiple Copies of Your Revision
Don’t fall into the habit of saving your revisions over the previous version. You won’t always be happy with the changes you make or the new sentences you add. Sometimes you will want to go back and forth between drafts to gather the best wording.
2. Let Your First Copy Cool Off
Set the document aside at least overnight before editing. Time management is crucial for this step. Taking a break from writing allows you return to the work with fresh eyes. You’ll notice flaws such as choppiness or the lack of smooth transitions, as well as missing or misspelled words—things not readily obvious when we’ve been immersed in a paper for hours. So put it aside and forget about for it for a while. The break gives your brain a rest.
3. Read the Draft Aloud
We learn to speak long before we read or write. The ear will hear errors the eye fails to pick up. You’re close to submitting, but don’t skip this important step. Your ear is a better editor than your eye.
It’s even more effective to hear someone else read your work. If no one is available to read, I record myself using an app on my phone. As I listen to the playback, I hear word repetitions and awkward sentences that I’ve missed. It serves us well to edit out loud.
4. Print a Copy and Mark it Up
Research says we process text differently onscreen than we do as hard copy. Text is easier and faster to process from a hard copy. Although students argue this point, I recommend they print a hard copy and follow along as they listen to their writing with a pencil in hand.
Embracing the art of revision helps us produce our best writing. What suggestions can you add?
Whatever you do, work heartedly, as for the Lord
and not for men. Colossians 3:23 (ESV).