I wanted to dedicate this Tips Tuesday's entry to what I consider one of the most important things in writing –not exclusively storytelling–, which is the revision process. I've been there, spending hours and hours on your first draft, working on the characters, the dialogues, the narration, until you reach that point you write those two magical words: "The end" –bear with me if you're not an storyteller, think of this moment as when you finish writing your ten pages long essay for a literature class or research paper. The level of excitement and joy is completely unexplainable. We just want to grab our phone and let everyone know: "I freaking did it!". But truth is, it is not that simple. You are not done yet, not even close! Why?
"Write drunk, edit sober"
Do I have to get a couple of shots of vodka every time I want to write? Of course not: don't take me so literal. Well, some people do, but I'll just skip that part. What this is trying to say is that, whenever you start writing, regardless of the mental process you personally go through, you should not bother into details: they are not important right now! Who cares if you wrote the word "car" three times in the same sentence? Definitely not a drunk person.
Allow me to break this down a little further, so you can get a clear idea of what I mean. At the time you are writing, your mind is pouring out the ideas of whatever it is you are writing at that exact moment. Your brain is focused. Well, let me rewrite that: Your brain is focused. Yeah, that's better. So, at the moment you stop to think "Oh! What other way can I call a car? I can say vehicle. What else? Let me look up for synonyms", at that exact moment, your mind losses its concentration, because you have changed the task it has to focus on. By the time you fix those minor issues and get back into your writing, you might have a little trouble recovering the pace. Therefore, stay drunk: just keep writing and writing until you complete this process.
Great! We did it! We got to the end of our first draft. Now, allow me to put this right out there: You are not done, not even close. Say it out loud: "I am not done yet". Most people underestimate the importance of the revision process, but truth is: it is the most important part of the whole creative process. Your first draft, like we said before, was just a constant pour of ideas, of whatever reached your mind first at the moment of writing. Those ideas not necessarily had to be organized, or logical, or correctly written. That's where the revision process becomes relevant. Revision is the part of the process that focuses on identifying spelling, logical, or grammatical mistakes, and puts effort into fixing them. This process's main goal is to turn your first draft into a great story/essay/paper.
The ideal way of revising –highlight the word ideal– is by reading your whole document from beginning to end, going through every sentence, every idea, every word. However, you need to keep in mind you are not reading as a regular reader: you will be reading as a critic, the worst one you can be –which, in this context, the worst one is actually the best one. During this process, you have to keep asking yourself a series of questions, in order for you to figure out if your draft is growing in the right direction:
- Is this the best way of phrasing this idea?
- Could I have used different words for this sentence?
- Are the ideas presented in the best order for the reader?
- Am I leaving any blank ideas, or things unexplained?
- Am I making my point clear to the reader?
- Is the language adequate for the type of work I am supposed to write?
These are just to mention a few. Anyways, these ideas, they must be relevant to you during the revision process, not during the writing process. Knowing when to do each part of the process will help you improve your writing process –forgive the repetition. Of course, the more you write, the more aware you will become of certain things –you might unconsciously avoid the redundancy of a word five times throughout a paragraph as you become more skilled–, but let's highlight once again a key word in this idea: unconsciously. Let that be a technique developed by your brain in the background, not something you actually think about at first, or try to focus on.
"You are going to write a lot of crap –we all do. The trick is learning to recognize the crap. The secret is uncrapifying it."
I hope this has become helpful not only for writers, but for all of you who, at some point, have to create a document or write up an essay. I will be writing more about the revision process in the future, so stay tuned!
Let me know in the comments if you found this useful, if you have any additional tips, or if you have any more questions related to this. I'd be happy to interact a little with you guys! Until the next one!
The two quotes are not mine, I just found browsing through Tumblr, and they didn't have an author mentioned.