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Write Now and Revise Later, or Right Now, Revise?

“I don’t write a quick draft and then revise; instead, I work slowly page by page, revising and polishing.”
– Dean Koontz

There are many ways to go about writing and revising a story, each of which is used by successful writers today. There is no single way, no magic formula, for this. It is something that is learned, experienced, and employed by each and every writer individually.

Some common methods are:

  • Write an entire first draft, then go back and revise. Don’t go back and read the sentence you just wrote, just get the story down.
  • Write some, revise some. This makes writing the first draft longer, but helps lessen the amount of revisions needed at the end.
  • What first draft? Some writers make writing and revising a simultaneous process. It is no easy feat to make this work, and takes years of writing experience.

I, like Mr. Koontz, am one that writes a little and revises a little, adjusting the trim on the story as I fly through it. I feel this process works for me because I like to ensure that I’m moving the story in the right direction as I write it. In part, it’s because I’m afraid the story might derail as I go along, if I don’t go back and check on it. Plotting ahead of time helps this, though.

The main question I find with this process, though, is how much does one write before going back to revise? That is a question best answered by the writer employing the process, as every writer will have a different preference.

Which method of revision do you use?

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Making Your Revisions Count

My wife and I have a family friend staying over tomorrow evening and we decided to rearrange some things, put up some new shelves, and just generally tidy up the house. We went as far as switching our office and guest bedrooms, which took up a good chunk of the weekend.When we finished, the house had a fresh, new look. It was still the same familiar house, but was jazzed up a bit with the rearranged rooms and new shelves. And overall, we both agreed that it looked better than when we’d started.

This “revision” of our home is a lot like the revision process in writing. After completing a first draft, there are often one or many revisions that may be needed, whether it be of your own doing or that of your editor or critique group.

You may need to move whole sections of your work (rearrange rooms), add new elements (shelves), or just tidy up a bit. Whatever the revisions may be, your ultimately going for a fresh, improved story.

It may be that you have no issues with your work when you complete the first draft. You may be perfectly fine with how the chapters fit together, and thus don’t see a need for changes. Or, maybe you revise each chapter as you go along (this is why my first drafts always take me forever to write) to lessen the blow for later revisions.

Whatever the case may be, if you want your writing to shine with the fresh coat of wax a revision can offer, you can’t be afraid of change. You should expect change at the onset of your writing, knowing that things will be different at the end of the road.

When I set out to tearing down my desk and prepping our home office for relocation, I wasn’t sure what the end result would be, or how I would like it. I was fine with the status quo. But it turns out that I prefer things the way they are now.

Here are a few things to consider when making revisions:

  • Begin with the end in mind – You are revising because you have the need to improve your last draft. Set goals around the changes you want to make, and stick to them.
  • When in doubt, throw it out – You’re the boss of your writing, so don’t be afraid to “fire” any part of your story that you feel is not a good fit. Even if that particular part is your favorite, be honest with yourself about what your story needs.
  • Say it loud and proud – As you revise, read your writing aloud to yourself. You may find parts that need rewording or don’t fit altogether. This will also help you actually hear your writing voice, which is an important part of what makes your writing unique.

Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com has a great post on the revision process, which he wrote for those completing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWroMo). Larry’s blog is a great resource for writers, if you’re not already familiar with it.

So let me know…How do you revise? Do you blast through the first draft and make many changes at the end, or do you revise as you go?

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