Friday, March 6, 2020

My Biggest Revision Secret

Since the 2019-2020 school year marks the 10th Anniversary of this blog, on Fridays, I’m resurrecting and updating old posts that sparked a lot of conversation or that still have a lot to offer people teaching or writing nonfiction.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, chances are you’ve read previous posts about my biggest revision secret, but it seems like a good time for a quick reminder. 

What’s the secret? After I finish a rough draft, I let it “chill out.” In other words, I don’t start revising immediately. I take a break from the manuscript.

Why is this such an important part of my writing process? Because I have a lot in common with young writers. When I finish a draft, I think to myself: “Phew, am I ever glad to be done! I worked long and hard on this draft, and I think it’s pretty good. In fact, maybe it doesn’t need any revisions at all.” 

If the voice in my head is saying: “It’s good enough. It’s good enough,” am I going to notice parts of the manuscript that need work? No way.

But if I take a break. If I spend two days or two weeks or even two months working on something else, I can come back to the manuscript with fresh eyes and an open mind. In other words, I’m ready to revise. I’m ready to re-envision the writing.

Obviously, students can’t take a 2-month hiatus from every piece of writing they do, but why not let their writing chill during lunch and recess or over a weekend or during a week of school vacation? And wouldn’t it be great if, near the end of the school year, young writers could revisit a couple of pieces they wrote in September or October.

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