Ok. If you started writing and silencing your inner editor only yesterday, you can plow ahead or wait a few days to tackle revision.
Far too many people believe that revising and editing are exactly the same thing.
Make a mental note of this now:
“So,” you ask, “how are they different?”
When you REVISE, you read your piece, ask questions of your piece, move material around, add material, and delete material.
When you EDIT, you are generally looking for mechanical and grammatical errors.
LET’S START REVISING
Without a writing tool of any kind (and probably without anyone around you if this is the first time you are doing this), READ your piece OUT LOUD.
Yup, read it out loud. That way you force yourself to stick with the words on the page and not unconsciously stick in words that aren’t written. Make a mental note of places where you want to add material.
Now you can pick up a pen (preferably a different color of the original piece) or pencil. I prefer to use a pencil and have one of those pink erasers near me.
Read it out loud again. This time add details, missing words, and other ideas where you feel they are necessary.
When you are looking to add details, think about your five senses.
Do you have details that are sight based, or visual?
EXAMPLE: The Christmas tree stood in the corner of the living room and touched the ceiling. Silver and gold ornaments dressed the branches, and glitter-covered garland hung like necklaces between the branches.
Do you have details that are sound based, or auditory?
EXAMPLE: The chirp of crickets and the croak of frogs surrounded us. The fire in the pit snapped and crackled.
Do you have details that are odor based?
EXAMPLE: Max opened the door. Warm chocolate cookies filled the air, and Max knew he would find his grandmother in the kitchen.
Do you have details that are taste based?
EXAMPLE: Susan grimaced as the bitter medicine coated her tongue.
Do you have details that are touch based?
EXAMPLE: Sophia’s smooth skin raked across the jagged bricks.
Although you don’t want to overload your reader by including all five senses in a short piece, you do want to draw your reader in by including details that address two or three of the senses.
FIX MISSING OR CONFUSING ITEMS
As you read, pay attention to spaces where words might be missing. As we forge forward as we write a first draft, it is possible to skip words, especially little words like “a,” “an,” or “the.”
In dialogue, you might find that you have omitted dialogue tags (he said / she said). This happens because we are recording the words we think our characters are saying, but not necessarily who is saying them. Don’t go overboard in adding dialogue tags – just use them where they seem essential.
Read the piece out loud again. This time you are looking for things that don’t move the story forward or aren’t essential.
Draw a single line through the stuff you want to delete. Don’t use correction tape. Don’t black it out.
You never know. There have been times when I think something isn’t necessary and I have totally deleted it (This happens all too often when we revise on a computer.). Later, a day or so later, I realize I actually needed those words. And far too often, I can’t get the wording just the way I had it. Now, when I am revising on the computer, I highlight – copy – and paste the part I am working on into a new document. That way, I don’t loose the original.
Read the piece out loud again. This time you are looking to see if ideas flow logically and smoothly. If something seems out of order, or it would be better later or earlier in the piece, make marks to move it.
Let the piece rest. Just like in cooking, sometimes it is best to let a piece rest – for the ideas in our head to dissipate and gel on the page.
Pick up the piece with a fresh and clean mind. If necessary, rewrite or retype the piece – with all the changes – onto a fresh, new piece of paper.
Let it rest once more.
Read your piece out loud once more from that fresh copy you just created. Read it for your enjoyment. If you struggle, make additional changes until you are happy with the piece.
A FINAL NOTE
This process is for practice. It is not a process, as you are learning it, that you want to attempt in a single sitting.
As you practice, you will find that you will become adept at combining the different steps and the whole process will become more efficient.