Into the Rearview Mirror


By Carol Harblin

Revising is a writer’s hindsight.  There is more to writing than just tapping out words to make a story.  Writing also involves revising.  The writing process is approximately 90% revising. 

The first draft is about releasing our words; each draft that follows is about creating a better version of it.  Don’t ever think that a first draft is the final copy. 

Revising is similar to when actors rehearse for hours on one scene in order to make it perfect.  Actors will rehash the same lines over again, just as writers revise and rewrite sentences over again.  Revising is hindsight.  Hindsight means to understand something better after it has already happened. We always wish we could transport back to that event or conversation and make it better; we may not be able to time travel like H.G. Wells, but we can always revise!  Revising is not a death sentence.  It is the opportunity to create a better version of our prose. 

How many times do you ever wish you could go back in life and do it again or fix what you said?  Revising is your do-over.  It is the hindsight that has vision!  When we re-read our work we don’t have to wish we could say something a different way because we can rewrite it again!  That is the luxury of the revision process.

After conversations or tests we always kick ourselves by saying, “Oh I should have done that,” or “I should have said that instead!” That is what revising is all about!  We get those chances to restate what we wanted to but didn’t have the perception or insight to articulate it beforehand. 

All of those novels we see on display in a bookstore have all been revised at least a dozen times.

When we see all that red ink on our pages from the editors, don’t worry! Find the creative opportunity and dig in and have fun!

Remaining positive about the revision process is key to success.  Pretend we are forensic word surgeons and we have to slice into our stories and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. 

Sometimes revising may be easier if we print out the pages and read it away from a screen, or maybe change the font, too.  Whatever method that gives our eyes a change from what we were reading the words originally. 

Whatever we write be sure that we will have to revise it again…and again…and again.  This is why we should always write what drives us and sparks our souls.   The quickest way to get writer’s block is writing something that doesn’t ignite our passion and interest.  If we have to write something boring for a class then find a way to make it fun.  Find a twist or an anecdote that will liven the document. 

Revising also means sharing our work with another pair of eyes – or several pairs of eyes.  We can never be our own editor, because we are too close to our work to see it objectively.  Do surgeons operate on their own bodies?  Writers cannot operate on their words either. 

It is also important to know when to stop the editing and revising, too, because we could be over coddling it which may end up hurting it in the long run.  That is why it is important to get out of ourselves and allow other people to read our work. 

Go ahead, be brave, and cut into our manuscripts and short stories.  Pass the scalpel, let’s go in!