Revisions have been traditionally pretty hard for me, I always struggle with what to cut and what to change when trying to preserve a message or even to elaborate on it. The repurposing project this semester has really pushed me past those boundaries and each draft I’ve created has been drastically different from previous ones. Instead of the confusion I was expecting, it’s actually quite refreshing. Looking at how my pieces have transformed over the course of the project and creating a paper and now digital trail of the progress that I have made, gives me a path to look back on. From my experience this semester, I think there are three things I would like to keep in mind when doing revisions in the future.
1. Keep the Big Picture in Mind: Any number of changes are fine as long as the underlying message, the big idea is consistent and easily understandable. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in all the details, make all the changes, and then realize that it’s changed, but not in the way that you wanted it to.
2. Get Peer Insight: When writing and revising and editing and writing, we become so familiar with our own stories, our own words, that we forget our readers are reading it for the first time. They won’t have pondered over it endlessly or may not see exactly why that one sentence links to another idea. Especially in areas with memoirs, I have so many context clues in how to interpret the story because it’s my own experience, but an audience won’t have those or even the same reactions. If those contextual points are really important, then they need to be built in and the way to judge which areas are lacking or are too much, is to get direct peer feedback on the pieces. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of asking, “Does this make sense?”
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Big Changes: Keeping in mind big picture and audience needs, don’t be hesitant about changing the piece entirely. Sometimes a new look will force myself to read it in a new light and will bring out inconsistencies and haziness even for me. More often than not, the new draft is better, or explores a new angle, and when combined with the old, really takes it to another level. If worried about the second draft not being as good as the first, I always save the multiple drafts so I can always go back to a previous version if needed, and it provides me with somewhat of a safety net feeling.
As I take these key learnings into my revision for Why I Write, I’m struggling with a lot of the same areas. What can I afford to cut and what is necessary? It’s often a difficult choice because we become so attached to our own writing and would do anything rather than change it, but overcoming this status quo can lead to writing that is clearer, better, and more articulate.