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Monday, December 14, 2009

Revision: Where the Fun Begins

My favorite part of writing – next to seeing my just published article in a magazine – is revision. The blank page and the first draft are painful. When I put a sentence on the page, I know it won't work. I’m certain it will require revision, but that’s O.K. New sentences always need fixing. As writers that’s what we do. Revision is fun, but that’s a trade secret seldom revealed to outsiders.

The first draft gets words on the page. We ask nothing more of it. The initial draft is messy, and the resulting sentences are not pretty. As you begin to revise, cross out stray or redundant sentences. Improve your remaining sentences by cutting unnecessary words and phrases. Next, check for subject/verb agreement and rewrite to remove the passive voice. Now replace long words with short words and trade vague words for precise ones.

Look at your paragraphs. Did you arrange your sentences in the order that best makes your point? Sometimes you'll find your topic sentence at the end of the paragraph. In that case, simply move the last sentence to the beginning of the paragraph. Also, you may find that interchanging a couple of sentences makes the whole paragraph read better. Next, check to see if you arranged your paragraphs in the most effective sequence. Finally, read your first and last paragraphs to confirm that you tied them together.

Repeat this rewriting procedure as many times as needed. You can quit revising when you can no longer make improvements.

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