Revision is one of the most misunderstood parts of the writing process.
When you ask students to revise their writing, they often think you are asking them to correct their spelling mistakes and write it over neatly. This is editing. (See “Editing and Revision: Defining the Difference.”)
One thing that many writers, adults and students alike, do not recognize is that good revision is a journey and involves taking things one step at a time. It is very difficult to revise a piece of writing when you are focusing on multiple qualities at once.
Perhaps the reason writers are sometimes reluctant to embrace revision is because they get overwhelmed with how much it involves. They don’t know where to begin.
To make revision more manageable (and more enjoyable), it is important that writers break the revision process down into chunks, focusing on only one quality at a time.
Here are some ways we can revisit our writing to revise it, depending on the type of writing we are doing. The writer chooses ONE area to focus on at a time. This is not a checklist — all of these qualities do not need to be checked off before a piece of writing is finished being revised. Some writing projects will involve more extensive revisions and revisits, and others will involve less. It is up to the writer and the task.
Character: Is the character well developed? Is dialogue used to reveal character traits? Do each of the characters stand out as being different from the others?
Sequence: Do the events happen in an order that makes sense? Is anything left out that the reader won’t be able to figure out on their own? Is there a solid beginning/middle/end?
Problem/Solution: Is there a problem in the narrative? Is it introduced at an appropriate time? Are there multiple attempts at solving the problem? Is the problem solved by the end?
Power of Three: Can the Power of Three be used somewhere, such as three attempts to solve a problem, three characters, events happening in groups of threes? (See “Balance Your Writing with the Power of Three")
Dialogue: Is dialogue used appropriately? Does it move the story forward? Does it reveal something about the characters or setting or is it just blabber?
Purpose: Is the purpose for writing clear? Was the audience considered? Does the writer present their thoughts with authority?
Facts: Are the facts relevant? Are there enough facts? Are the facts from reputable sources?
Word choice: Are content-specific words used? Is the word choice engaging for the reader?
Power of Three: To provide balance, can details, quotes, examples, be given in groups of three? (See the reference in the ‘Narrative’ section above for more on The Power of Three.)
Organization: Are the most important facts or details given first? Is there a solid conclusion?
Sentences: Are there a variety of sentence lengths? (See “Sentence Length: Mix It Up”.) Are appropriate transitions used? Is there variety in the sentence structures? Can the sentences be tightened up by removing unnecessary words?
Paragraphing: Is the paragraphing appropriate? Are any paragraphs too long? Is there a place where a really short paragraph, maybe just a sentence, could be impactful? (See “Paragraphs: Give Us a Break!”)
Clarity: Does the writing make sense to a reader other than just the author? Is the writing developed with enough information or detail? Are there words missing anywhere? Does the writing do what it is intended to do? Did the writer stay on topic?
These ideas for revision are just the tip of the iceberg, but are a good place to start.
Remember that revision is a journey. It must be taken one step at a time.
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