I hear groans from my students at all stages of the writing process. But where I often get the most questions is when we get to revising. I already did that as I wrote, many will tell me. Now what do I do?
I remember vaguely how difficult it was to revise as you wrote back before there were computers. Type, type, type, pause, grab the white out, blow, check for dryness, type, type, type, repeat. Finish, read, mark changes with a pen, begin typing and correcting with white out again. For me, the process was a nightmare.
So much has changed with the advent of word processing software. Most of us now revise and edit constantly as we type. (I’ve done it dozens of times already, just in writing this article!) While this continuous reworking can be considered both a form of revising and editing—depending on the types of changes being made—unfortunately, this doesn’t make your work ready for publication.
Why not? Because odds are that the little changes you made as you wrote didn’t cover the scope of what needs to be done during the revising stage, including a consideration of your:
1. Introduction: is what you have the best possible way to interest readers?
2. Organization: have you placed elements in a logical fashion, broken down paragraphs so that each one focuses on only one topic, broken down large paragraphs to make it easy on readers, and included transitional words and phrases to help readers follow your train of thought?
3. Details and Examples: have you provided enough to illustrate your point? Have you summarized general information and detailed important parts? Does each detail and example you’ve provided fit with your intended purpose for writing?
4. Conclusion: is this the best possible way to draw the writing to a close? Have you left readers with enough closure that they will feel satisfied?
5. Writing Style: Is the voice and tone appropriate for the audience?
Once you’ve evaluated each of these areas, you should get an idea of what changes need to be made. Revising will then mean adding, re-wording, and cutting, and every once in a while, it may mean starting over. But thanks again to our wonderful word processor, tossed away ideas are now easy to hang on to. And you never know when a tossed away idea may become useful in the future!