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Writing Tips (Part One): Writing, Revising, and Editing

October 29, 2014 | Richard Scarsbrook | Comments (0)

There are essentially three stages to producing an excellent piece of written work: writing, revising, and editing.

 WRITING

Writing your first draft should be a labour of love.  Purge those words onto the page with as much passion and fury as you want to.  Most of the feeling and creativity happens in this stage of the creative writing process. 

The most important thing to remember when you are writing a first draft is to BE THERE.  If you are writing a sad piece, tears should be welling up in your eyes as you compose your story.  If you are writing about something funny, you should be laughing as you write.  You should have a clear picture in your mind of places and people you are writing about as you write about them.  If you are THERE when you are writing your first draft, chances are that your readers will be there too.

During this stage, write as if your piece is the most brilliant and important thing anyone will ever read.

 

Okay, so that was the fun part.  Now comes the REAL work. . .

 

REVISING

Revision is the process of seeing the work a second time, from a different perspective, as if it is something new (re-vision). During this process, the writer looks at larger issues which affect the structure and meaning of the piece.   When revising, try to look at the work as if you are reading it for the first time.  The writer must juggle words, rewrite sentences and sometimes entire paragraphs.  Sometimes one has to throw away the whole piece and begin from scratch!

This is also the stage where you must remove any unnecessary or redundant words ro passages.  One of the single best bits of advice on revising comes from Stephen King’s On Writing:  “Final Draft = First Draft – 10 per cent”.

During this stage, read the piece as if your harshest critic is reading it, then fix anything that this critic would find to complain about.

 

Some tips on revising:

 

1. Leave some time between writing and revising.

 Once a rough draft is finished, set it aside for at least a day and come back to it later, with a fresh mind and the energy to seek and destroy the errors in it.

2.  Read the piece aloud

If we read the paper aloud slowly, we have two senses (seeing AND hearing) working for us. Thus, what one sense misses, the other may pick up.

3.  Read as if you are hearing the piece for the first time.

Remember that You are Writing for Others.  Make sure that another person will understand what you are saying. Are you actually saying what you mean to say?

Alternately, have somebody else (who will be honest and forthright – probably not your Mom) read the piece, or read it out loud to someone. 

 

 EDITING

Editing is simply proofreading. When you edit, you correct problems like typos and grammatical errors; you read through the paper line by line and make simple changes. Generally, editing occurs when the paper is considered a finished product, almost ready to turn in.

Watch out for words that your word processor recognizes as “real” words but aren’t the ones you actually meant to use.  Watch out for shifts in verb tense!  Watch out for repeated words!  Watch out for unnecessary adverbs and adjectives!

During this stage, read your work as if you are a curmudgeonly, old-school grammar teacher that strikes students on the knuckles with a ruler for every error.

Some tips on editing:

1.  Again, leave some time between revising and editing. 

 Fresh eyes catch more errors.

 

2. Read through your piece SLOWLY.

 This will help you catch mistakes that you might otherwise overlook. As you use these strategies, remember to work slowly. If you read at a normal speed, you won't give your eyes sufficient time to spot errors:

 Reading aloud encourages you to read every little word, as does reading with a "cover" (sliding a blank sheet of paper down the page as you).

 

3.  Use the “Find” or “Search” function on your word processor.

 Typing “ly” into the search box is a great way to find and eliminate unnecessary adverbs!  Typing a simple comma into the search box is a good way to find and eliminate run-on sentences and comma splices.

 

4.  Cut out Wordiness Wherever Possible.

Don’t write “They are desirous of ...” when “They want ...” works just as well.

 

5.  Watch out for Colloquialisms

Don’t write something like “Her behaviour flipped me out”, because such phrases are too vague.  Try to be more vivid and direct, like: “At first her behaviour stunned me, but then I found it funny”.

 

Comments

During his residency, Richard will work on three new books: a novel called Meet Me at La Bodeguita del Medio, a short story collection titled Rockets Versus Gravity, and a poetry collection called (d)Evolution. Through workshops and one-on-one meetings, Richard will draw on his years of writing and teaching experience to help developing writers find their voices and perfect their works.
Writer in Residence Program