Writing Exercises: "Revision and Rewriting - the Basics"

Yep, this cringeworthy topic. Every writer, myself included, dreads this stage because it is just a bit horrifying having to look back at what you read days (or months) ago for revision. The worst part of it is, when we do, that nasty little berating voice in the back of our head loves to begin singing its little opera of self doubt and hinder the entire writing process as a whole.

I know because I've been there too. Every writer has or will at one point. I don't know why we do it, but we sadly do. Here's the thing though, its part of our job to learn how to fight back at that little voice in our heads. The first step in doing that is to learn to look at the revision process in an entirely different way. That way is this:

Revision is courageous writing.

You read that right. Just as it is brave for us to join critique circles, its brave to critique our own writing. Its difficult to critique ourselves, especially when we take another look at what the nostalgia factor fails to keep rosy. Sometimes we hate what we see and the very sight of what we saw induces a mind numbing panic. The thing to remember here, is that all first drafts will be silly and full of errors. That's why its a draft. That's why we join critique circles or revise our own work. You can't be perfect the first time so don't be.

Let's ask the most basic questions about revision first though. That first most basic question is as follows: do I have to do drafting and editing? Yes. Yes you do. Not because a writer or two told you but because revision is an opportunity for you may not initially be seeing. My stories' most impressive transformations occur during revisions, mostly because my revisiting abandoned plot holes with a better knowledge of what I'm writing really helps me work through why my story wants to be about. That may sound odd, but truth be told, every story knows what it wants to be from the beginning, its just a matter of the writer figuring out how to catch up to their project's goal.

The key here, is that you must be open to the idea of revision being a challenge and a process that makes you feel confident instead of doubtful. Revision is simply revisiting past writing with a better idea of where the project is going and reining better control over content through editing. The more you practice revision the more thrilled you'll be because this step will become a thrilling challenge.

Drafting is also a training tool that actively improves your writing. Duh, but drafting does make you clever. We learn from our mistakes, and the more you work through your plot holes and character building, the less you'll be likely to have to revise the same kinds of things later. In addition to this, every writer should acclimatize to the following crucial phrase: cleverness cannot be rushed. We go through the process of writing for a very specific reason: because we already begin clever in our first draft. Our ideas are developing from scratch, so we're connecting the dots even though we don't know it and may have to skip over those connections until we reach the point of revision.

The key here is to train yourselves to look at revision in a new light. It's a challenge but the longer you spend dreading this step, the longer it will take for you to accomplish.

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