Revision is one of the most important parts of writing, yet it never seems to be a huge discussion point in the writing community. Though, as both a writer and a freelance editor, I’m fascinated by it. Mostly because it’s a finishing process that is as unique as the writer who put words to the page.
My revision process is simple—because I’m always revising. I start out nearly each writing session reading what I last wrote. This puts me in the mood of voice, but it also allows me to catch little errors quickly and to avoid making tons of continuity mistakes. It also allows me to give fresh-but-familiar eyes to a scene, which I find helps me quickly firm up anything that was a little loose.
This method means that when I’m finished with a manuscript draft, my whole-draft revision tends to be relatively short. Unless there’s some major flaw, or I’m waiting forever on a beta read, the most I’m ever actively revising is usually a couple of weeks, and most of that time is spent rereading it and letting it air out in equal measure.
All that said, I know I’m not necessarily normal in my process. Mine is a gift from my days as a journalist. When there was a length, a topic and a time limit and that was it. Revision sometimes didn’t happen at all, so it was best to get it right the first time.
I know some writers, most especially “fast drafters,” who can churn out a manuscript in a month or less and then need four times that to revise or more. For these writers, moving forward is the only goal and going back—and getting mired in that detail—is death.
This “go back means death” process is also the case for a few very slow drafters I know. They just need to do the thing and will stall out and overthink things if given the chance. They also will take a long time in revision.
Of course, there are people who are in between these extremes as well. And that could be you.
What’s your preferred way to revise?