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When I am preparing to edit one of my manuscripts, it helps to have some space between when I wrote the piece and when I’m editing. This helps me see it afresh. I like this quote by A. Bronson Alcott, "Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth." It’s great when I come back after time and am amazed at how well I said something or how a scene flows naturally. However, much of my writing “needs improvement” on a second or third or fourth examination.
This is where remembering the goal of the scene, chapter, story, etc. comes in handy. It’s not what I wrote that is important, but making sure I’m getting the message across—not in a preachy way, of course. But does the scene make sense? Does it raise the emotion I want it to raise? Am I showing? Are the characters grounded in the setting? Is the action logical? Is the important stuff happening on scene? Does the dialogue sound natural? Do I include sensory details? Do my critique partners laugh at the appropriate lines and sigh or worry over my character in others? If not, I’ve got reworking to do. Nora DeLoach says it well: "Writing is rewriting... If you fall in love with the vision you want of your work and not your words, the rewriting will become easier."
That first draft was getting it down—rewriting is reassembling the puzzle of scenes and words. Some scenes and words will be torn out or replaced. Others may be moved to different places or reshaped. Eventually each are polished until they shine. It takes time and care. Norman Cousins says, “Words have to be crafted, not sprayed. They need to be fitted together with infinite care.”
We all need to take care with our writing to make it the best we can and that includes self-editing. If you have any revision techniques you’d like to share, feel free to share in the comments.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.