Revising Your Writing: The Art of It

a person holding a pencil next to a blank pieces of paper with our crumpled paper in the foreground

There’s nothing like finishing a manuscript you’ve been working on for what seems like forever. A big sigh of relief, right? 

While you might feel relieved, it’s only temporary because revisions are on the horizon.  

The art of revision is far less complicated (or terrifying) than you may think. Here is a new way to approach the much-dreaded revision process, courtesy of From Whispers to Roars.  

Rethink. Renew. Revise. 

Diving into your manuscript, essay, short story, or poem for round 2 isn’t as daunting as it may seem. In fact, it will definitely do your writing some good – sorry friends, but no one gets it right the first time around. 

The revision process is about rethinking, renewing, and revising your work. Because you’ve stepped away from it, hopefully for a few weeks at least, you’ve gained a more distant perspective. This is necessary because revision means that things are inevitably going to change – maybe a little, or maybe a lot.  

A few tips to get into the right mindset to revise:

  • Don’t try to tackle it all at once. If you have a 50,000 fiction story, revise by chapter. The same for a collection of poetry; revise a few at a time, and then step away.
  • Stay organized. Always keep a copy of the originals. If you’re cutting a lot of text, have a “cut” file where you can keep all of the material. Who knows, you might find a place for it later.

My Favorite Revision Strategies

Sharpen your First Draft

Take a good hard look at your first draft. This means making things clear for your reader, tightening up sentences, and identifying areas in your plot that could be improved. 

This can also mean you might: 

  • Clarify confusing points
  • Rejuvenate your setting with more vivid descriptions
  • Make your characters more relatable.
  • Taking a stance? Make it pointed.
  • Are there too many conflicts? Time to restructure

Open your Work Up for Criticism 

You should never submit work for a publication that hasn’t been read, edited, and criticised by others. 

After being consumed by your project or manuscript and doing revisions, it becomes hard to see necessary changes – you’re just too close to it.

Find readers you trust, who read carefully and enjoy the genre of your writing. I recommend reaching out to folks in your writing group (online or in-person), a writing professor, or mentor.

Then, cut your chest open and let them tear you apart from the inside. Be desperately starving for feedback, suggestions, and areas for improvement. It will only make you and your writing better.  

The Art of Revision: A Process Up to You 

In reality, you decide how the revision process goes. It can be painstaking and ruthless, or a time for productive structural changes and implementation of feedback.  

Remember, the art of revision is all up to you. Trust yourself and your first draft, but be prepared for change. 

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