Revision: One Secret to Good Writing

Psst! You! Want to know what it takes to be a good writer? Seriously! I’ll let you know for nothing! Lean in closer, and I’ll tell you.

It’s…it’s – REVISION!

Yes, I know. You agonize over just getting it written, but that’s just the beginning. There’s more work ahead because nothing – and I mean nothing – comes out right the first time.

“Wait!” you say. “What about all those writers and poets that just seem to let it all flow out? They’re not revising.”

Oh, yes, they are! You just don’t see it. Chances are they’ve been writing and rewriting it all in their heads to get the tempo, the meter, the words just right. Only the most experienced (and really talented) writers come close to having a finished product first time out. The rest of us have to slog it out on paper or electronically.

“Books aren’t written- they’re rewritten.  It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”  Michael Crichton

I know it’s tempting to skip the rewrite phase, especially if you’re under the pressure of a deadline. Don’t do it! It’s important, especially in business, to make sure that what you say is clear and accurate.

There are many steps you can take when rewriting. The WikiHow How to Revise a Piece of Writing gives basic tips. Here are some of the ones I think are most important:

  • Leave time between writing and revising, even if is only five minutes. This way you can approach your writing with fresh eyes. Don’t skip this, even if you’re just sending off an e-mail. You’ll be surprised at the mistakes you’ll catch.
  • Check the organization and flow of the piece. Readers, especially in business, lose patience when they have to make connections among ideas. Make sure you are doing it for them in a way that makes sense.
  • Cut out repetition and wordiness. This is sometimes the hardest thing to do, but slice and dice. When you tighten up your writing, you make it clearer. Isn’t that what we really want?
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread! I can’t stress this enough. One sloppy error will erode the reader’s confidence in what you are saying; many will create disbelief.

“I’m a rewriter. That’s the part I like best…once I have a pile of paper to work with, it’s like having the pieces of a puzzle. I just have to put the pieces together to make a picture.”  Judy Blume

Becoming a good writer takes work. A good chunk of that effort begins after you have written the first draft. Don’t be afraid! Roll up your sleeves and dig in!