The Art of Revising: Don’t Practice on Yourself


Revising my writing is not an easy task for me. Oh, I received above average grades in grammar. I learned and practiced vocabulary and studied charts of active verbs. But, revising still isn’t easy when I’m trying to perfect the art on my own material. There’s a point where I own it and revising is hard work.

Here’s a tip: Practice revising on someone else’s material.

Let’s face it, once we put our words on paper—we own it. We’re emotionally tied to it. It’s ours. Right? But, using the editing knife on other people’s writing will help you learn not just technique but also the emotional reaction you’ll need to develop that will best help you to revise your own material. Candidly, once you cut and change other’s material to make it better, you’ll develop an objective ease with your own work.

As a publisher I was able to do this with lots of people’s work. In both the editorial and marketing areas I had the freedom and responsibility to make good writing better. I also had a team of accomplished editors who showed me a lot about my own writing.

You may not have that same luxury. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

This year I met with several middle-school classes and helped them learn about historical fiction writing. I was able to read their work and help revise it. You may want to do a similar activity and volunteer to help a local middle or high school teacher. They will thank you for it and you’ll gain valuable practice.

You can also join a writer’s group and once trust is built in the group, share writing and revise each other’s work. I’m not talking just reading sessions, but taking time to take someone’s work home and working on it to help them create something better (and they do it with your work as well).

If these two don’t sound good to you, look at everything that may come across your desk or hit your inbox (virtual and physical). Ask yourself, “How could I make this better through revision?” Look at online content aggregators and read the articles they have pulled into their site. Do some revision work on those articles. You won’t get feedback, but you will develop technique that let’s you experience “bloodletting.” Then, you can apply the same thing to your writing always with the goal of making it better.


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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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