When I was a child, I hated checking my math before I turned my test in. It was so boring! I rarely found any mistakes. … According to me… My teachers probably wouldn’t agree…
I definitely made careless errors here and there. I wasn’t invested in seriously looking for mistakes. With the conceit of childhood, I believed I didn’t make mistakes often enough to bother looking for them to correct them. I though I did well enough the first time.
Not wanting to check my work played into my writing as well. I valued the creation stage over the revising one. When I’d finished writing a draft to the end, I believed it complete. I didn’t want to discover new issues to work on. In addition, I didn’t know how to walk through a system for revisions.
If you, too, dread checking your work, I understand.
And, I’ve come to learn the value of the revision and editing process… to the point where I enjoy it! Even my clients say that after working with me, they’ve learned that editing can be fun. If that’s not you (yet?), it’s okay.
If you’re struggling to transition into the revision stage, here are some tips to help ease into it:
- Know why you’re revising.
The purpose of revision is different from the purpose of writing. In the writing stage, you’re trying to capture and display all of your thoughts to completion. In the editing stage, the aim is to ensure that the writing aligns with the intention of the writing.
Imagine putting on a different hat for each stage.
It’s not about the structure and grammar itself, but the presentation as a whole. For example, spelling and grammar errors may make you seem less professional. Undefined structure and lack of flow can dampen clarity, and prevent your readers from understanding or even enjoying reading.
Just like on a math test, if you’ve made a careless mistake in the process, the outcome may not be as intended. The revision stage is about making sure the end result is the one you intend.
- Have a checklist and structure the revision.
Instead of halfheartedly reading the draft over and over, trying to spot random mistakes, focus on one thing at a time. Start with big-picture things like structure. Then, hone in on the details. Work to enhance your strengths as well as improve your weaknesses.
Questions to come back to, include: Who is the audience? What is the purpose of the writing? Is it clear?
Focus on one area of improvement at a time.
- Fresh eyes.
Putting your draft aside for a while is very effective at refreshing your mind and connection to the writing. You can see things you couldn’t see before. Novelty increases dopamine and chemicals in your brain that make you focus and pay attention (stemming from the need to look out for danger.) It will be easier to see things differently after space from your project.
- Read it out loud.
You may primarily be in relationship to the draft through the written words. Speaking out verbally can help connect to it in a novel way.
- Ask for feedback.
An outside perspective can mean everything.
After all, isn’t the purpose of your writing to communicate and connect with others? You may be crystal clear about what you’re trying to say. Yet you may not reach your goals if clarity issues (which you can’t see because you wrote it) prevent your readers from understanding what you’re communicating.
Find a buddy or an editor. When requesting feedback from a buddy, prepare specific questions to make it easier to receive the feedback you need. As an editor, I walk my clients through the entire process to make it easier (and hopefully more fun!).
I hope this helps you move out of the creating mindset and into the revising one. What do you find enjoyable about revision? Is there anything specific you’re struggling with? Comment below and let me know! I’d love to hear from you.