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To Edit or Revise

Are you receiving the right type of feedback?

New writers don't realize how much they  don't know about writing until they begin to write.  Hey, it's not easy!  Writing is fun.  The real work begins with revising and editing.  Many experienced writers enjoy this part best; it’s where they can get in there and tighten and polish until it shines like a gem and is tight as a drum.  Did you notice my use of cliches?  Sometimes, you just have to use them.


Most of the reviews you receive will be editing reviews.  To edit means to polish a finished piece by changing word choices to be more precise and concise, and to work on sentence structure, in addition to eliminating any errors in grammar, punctuation and mechanics. 


To revise means “to see again.”  This is at the heart of writing well.  Take a fresh look at what you have written by distancing yourself from the work and evaluating it from a reader’s point of view.  Read your reviews carefully, with an open mind.  They may show you something you hadn't realized.  You may decide to  take the character in a new direction or give him a new problem.  You are revising if you decide to kill the perpetrator instead of letting him get away.  You are changing something.

The two can overlap, but they are very different.  Inexperienced writers sometimes think they are revising when they are really editing.  You need to do both, so be careful not to confuse one with the other.  Unless you are one of the rare ones who write the perfect first draft.

Revising comes before editing, because you can waste time perfecting a paragraph that you later decide to delete.  You can correct errors as you move along, especially if doing so makes you more confident or comfortable.  But the more time and energy you invest in editing early on, the harder it may be to make major changes that would enrich your work. 

When something looks perfect, you're not going to like changing it, or maybe cutting it completely.

Writers usually benefit from setting the drafts aside for a time so that later they can see their work more objectively. 

What looks good when you are excited does not necessarily look good the morning after.

Think beyond the first plot, character and situation idea that popped into your head.  Don't be afraid to change direction.  Originality is very important to fiction writing.

What is not on the page can be even more important than what is there.

One of the most difficult tasks in revision is to look for what you have left out.  No matter how good a draft looks, ask yourself if something is missing.

Share your work with other readers and ask them to let you know if there is anything they find confusing or want to know more about.  Providing readers with this kind of specific direction can get you a much more focused review than simply asking “What do you think?”  When not given direction, some readers may keep reservations to themselves because they suspect they are being asked to approve a finished product.


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