On Revising (Part 1)

At this moment, I’m a special education teacher. It’s something that I’ve really enjoyed doing, a new step in my education career. It may be the field that I end up teaching in for the rest of my professional life.

However, I got started as a language arts teacher, at the secondary level. I also taught composition at the college level. There was one, bright, shining moment where I had fantasies of working as a full-time college professor, spending my days grading papers at the local coffee shop while tooling around on a new writing project. However, opportunities for full-time work, even at the community college level, were rare or non-existent, and the economics of adjunct college teaching make it the educational career equivalent of entry-level fast food work.

I do still teach writing – not usually full-time, but in short bursts to those kids I have writing goals with, and the occasional college class, although the last time I did that was a year and a half ago. I’m still open to taking on the occasional job, but I don’t see myself doing it for a career anymore.

During the time that I taught in the college environment, I always wanted to lay out what the writing process looked like, in a similar manner that Vince Lombardi would explain to his players what a football was before beginning practice. As part of that, I’d include a graphic in my PowerPoint to the class where I would illustrate that writing process to the class. It looked like… well, it looked much like what you see as the featured image for this post.

So, kids… :). That writing process involves:

  1. Prewrite – coming up with your idea and making initial plans for what it will look like.
  2. Draft – putting the first version of your writing down on paper/computer screen/etc.
  3. Revise – reviewing your work for possible improvements regarding its ideas, organization, or style.
  4. Edit – reviewing your work for grammatical, mechanical, or formatting errors.
  5. Publish – putting your final version of your work out for the general public to see.

For most people, those who don’t study writing carefully, steps 1 and 2 are usually the only ones they do personally, or that they have heard of. You think of something, you write it down – easy enough.

But it’s not that easy, is it? Even the diagram only hints at that complexity. For example, right after step 4, we could easily loop back to step 3 for another go-around, and then yet another. Professional novelists usually go through several revisions and edits for a single book; I’ve heard of some screenplays that see a dozen or more.

For me, both my personal experience with writing and teaching writing for the past 20-plus years has left me convinced, more than ever, that revising is the absolute key step to the writing process. It’s the engine that drives everything else in the writing process. It’s where you look at all of the drivel that you’ve dribbled onto the paper and screen and try not to recoil in horror. If drafting is taking a whole stack of 3×5 cards covered in notes, flinging them into the air, and letting them scatter across a table, revising is sorting all of those cards out and seeing how they relate to each other.

Since I’m getting closer to the revising part of my latest project, I thought I’d get into some of the things that I’ve noticed about the revising process and try to discuss some of the things I do in my own revisions. This blog post will be the start of that, but I’m not sure how long it will take for me to get through all of it. It’s kind of like these book projects that way.

Anyway, check my blog for the Revising tag and you’ll see those posts. Next one will be coming… soon. See you then.

4 thoughts on “On Revising (Part 1)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.