Many who aren’t writers believe that, once you write the novel/play/short story/poem it only takes a minimum of effort to get it perfect. (Those people often have slimy, foggy memories of college term papers and high school essays that are buried beneath more pleasant days. And how lucky they are!) Writers know a completely different beast. The beast, of course, is revision.
Writers see the revision process as fun, freeing, challenging and downright painful. Unfortunately, I fall into the very last category. Everything in me screams, “Run, run now!” each time I begin to search out mistakes and it takes every bit of willpower I possess to not put down the pen. You can’t imagine how grateful I am when I see novelists struggling with whole chapters and knowing I never have to suffer through such a lengthy overhaul. Still more unfortunately, poems and short stories still have to be revised.
I would love to tell you I revise all of my projects in the same way but that would be a lie. I would love to say it comes easy for me but it doesn’t. I would love to be able to point to a specific technique and say, “That will work for everyone, hop to!” But, here is what I can tell you:
1. When it comes to a huge project, it may be better taking it piece by manageable piece. A novel is often better being edited by chapters or number of pages than scrambling through the whole thing at once.
2. Editing as you go can work for smaller projects. (People tell you not to do this until you’re done so you don’t have one perfect paragraph and nothing else but I have found it can be beneficial for flash fiction and poetry.)
3. If you believe it is perfect directly after writing it, you’re almost always wrong. Put it away for awhile, work on something else, and then come back in a few weeks. If you don’t have the time, give it to someone whose opinion, and eyes, you trust. (You often can’t see mistakes if you’re too close.)
4. If you have to cut length, don’t trash it when you cut it. Instead, put the extra stuff in a separate folder for another time.
5. Outlining large projects may keep you on track and alleviate pages of unnecessary writing. (Some find this too restrictive, however.)
6. Don’t be completely dependent on computer software to catch every mistake but USE it anyway. Some mistakes a computer cannot register as a mistake and, therefore, won’t catch certain things. There when you mean to say they’re, for example.
These tips aren’t anything new to writers and they shouldn’t be; nor are these the only pieces of advice worth checking into. But it may give someone, somewhere, a start. Perhaps, in the future, I will post what my process is.