After you finish your first draft, it’s time to polish and perfect your work. This part of the process takes just as much, if not more work than the actual writing, and consists of more than just a once-over. You need to scrutinize your work during both the revising and editing phases. Too often, I hear about young writers using these words interchangeably. The truth is, these are two separate and distinct phases of the writing process. Each accomplishes different things, and each deserves a serious amount of writerly attention.
I like to think of revising as the corrections you make to the overall story. It is literally a re-visioning of the project. This is where you ensure your story has cohesion. You’re hunting through the story for weak points and cutting them, or reshaping them. It may also be a time to completely overhaul your manuscript. Maybe you realize you’re telling the story from the wrong point of view. Perhaps the voice isn’t working. Here is a list of some, but not all of the corrections you could make while revising:
· adding or deleting scenes or characters
· fixing plot holes
· solidifying voice
· re-order chapters
· question character development
· begin showing your manuscript to others and gather opinions
As you can see, all of the issues you are fixing in this face are quite large. It really is about the overall story, what needs to stay, and what needs to go. However, the type of corrections you make while revising are not the only thing that sets it apart from editing. How you go about those corrections is different as well.
We already discussed that revising addresses the work as a whole, but how does that influence the way you look at the manuscript? First, doing revisions includes a dialogue between you and readers. There will be times when you send your story to a beta-reader or writing buddy and ask them what’s working and what isn’t. This dialogue is crucial to the revising process. Additionally, revising does not consist of a right and wrong dichotomy. Instead, the reader and author may be in disagreement about what’s right for the story. The decisions you to make are entirely up to your discretion as the creator of the piece.
If revising is big picture changes, then editing is the line by line corrections that need to be made. You will be looking at each individual sentence and searching for errors in grammar, spelling, or word choice. During editing, you are looking less at the creative constructs of the story and more at the mechanics of the language. Some things you could correct include:
· word choice
· subject-verb agreement
· word choice
Much like revising, the types of corrections you are searching for influences the nature of how you will go about making them. Essentially, editing is the reverse of revising. This is not about an interaction with the reader. Although you may hire a professional editor, there is little conversation about what needs to be done, because you are making corrections based on a set of rules for the language. There is a very clear right and wrong during the editing process. Either you spelled the word wrong, or you didn’t. Editing consists of looking at each individual line and applying the rules of the language.
Which one comes first?
This is another area that I see young writers make a big mistake. Revising should almost always come before editing (I can’t think of a time when it wouldn’t, but I’m a firm believer of never say never), and here’s why. When you are going through your manuscript you will be adding and deleting a lot. If you edit first, you run the risk of spending massive amounts of time, energy, and possibly money for things that may not make the final cut. Also, you could have added things later that you forget to edit. I also don’t recommend editing as you revise. You will probably have to go through a couple of rounds of revisions before you finally reach the point where you feel confident in your story. A scene you’re sure you will keep on the first round of revisions may not survive the second or third round. Save yourself the time and edit once you have solidified your revisions.
So what’s our big takeaway for today? Revisions are the big picture changes, whereas edits correct line-by-line mistakes. And REVISE BEFORE YOU EDIT! Hopefully, this clears up some of the confusion in the muddled world of revising and editing. Do you have any tips on how to think about revising and editing? Leave them in the comments!