TAKE TIME OUTS DURING REVISION
After the draft is written, the writer has a much clearer idea of the focus of the paper, but the writer is no where near done with the job of writing. Beginning writers often think the challenge of writing is found in getting to the end of the paper, but professional writers understand that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Reserving time in your writing plan to set the paper down is crucial for successful revision.
The idea that writers write right up to the deadline is a myth. What they are actually doing is revising right up until the deadline. Perhaps this myth started with the images of Lois Lane and Clark Kent typing away at the Daily Planet— I do like to remind myself that Superman was a reporter because the job of a writer does often feel like super powers are required. And sometimes when I finish a meaningful piece of writing—I may even feel like a super hero!
Undeniably, writing can make you feel powerful, which is good and bad.
Good in the sense that you have accomplished your goal. Like many super heroes before you, you have set out to seek out and reveal the truth—and this is powerful and important. Bad in the sense that this post-writing euphoria can block your ability to see what you have created objectively—as the reader sees it. So relish the power surge while it lasts, after all this feeling is one of the real pay offs for good writing. Then walk away for awhile, and enjoy the break.
Tricks professional writers use to enforce this habit include imposing a personal deadline for the complete draft well
before the actual deadline so that they can step away from their writing long enough to become the reader. Of course, this trick necessitates careful planning, and not procrastinating. But taking a time out allows the writer to later read back through the paper with a perspective closer to that of the reader. Many professional writers include this time away when planning out their progress towards deadlines. This practice also allows them to rotate through multiple projects and attend to varying deadlines effectively.
WRITER AS THE READER
Professional writers must learn how to distance themselves so that they can read their own work more like the person on the receiving end of the message. This enables them to decide what to cut and what to keep. Making sure paragraphs stay tightly focused on the controlling idea is a good way to make this decision. If a paragraph drifts off
the topic, then the writer needs to decide if this new information is worth developing, or not. Often, what a writer decides to leave out is as important as what they decide to leave in the paper. Many times, inexperienced writers don’t want to ‘cut’ because they are too attached to their own writing. After all, that paragraph took valuable time to write! But what a professional writer knows is that often it takes many badly crafted paragraphs to get to a good
Professional writers develop a very critical eye as they read through their own work and mercilessly hack away or reconstruct less than effective sentences and paragraphs.
Rather than delete or trash text forever, I recommend opening a “cuts” document and moving all of the extraneous sections to that document. You may later choose to salvage these sections, re-integrate them in a different place in the paper, or maybe these cuts will find their way into your next masterpiece!
Remember: What you take out is often more important than what you leave in.
My motto is: If there is more time, then there is more time for revision.