Write Now: In Writing Process, Sometimes Revising, Editing Are Merged

What is the difference between editing and revising?

This question arises from time to time. Editing and revision are very similar, and both play a part in the writing process. The writing process, as I have written about in the past, may be either four or five steps:

¯ Brainstorming or prewriting

¯Rough draft or sloppy copy

¯ Revising

¯ Editing

¯ Publishing

Some teachers and scholars may merge editing and revising, and that is OK because there is one less step, but the same amount of work is undertaken.

So what is revision?

In simplest terms, it may mean see it again.

After finishing a piece, a writer will look at it again and then start his revision to correct, to improve or to update. The writer will make corrections, but sometimes after looking at it again, may improve upon his first idea. Beginning writers may make small revisions, while veteran writers may revise as a way to include more or less information. This is when revision gets fun. The writer has a chance to expand on his thoughts. Even Stephen King, from his novel “On Writing: A Memoir of the craft” said that a writer should write his first draft with the door closed and rewrite or revise with the door open.

Even in movies about writers there are scenes where rewriting has taken place. If you have seen “Trumbo,” then about half of the movie is the writer Dalton Trumbo, portrayed by Bryan Cranston, and the amount of rewriting he does as a scriptwriter in Hollywood. In the movie, he editied and revised in the bathtub of all places, but he put the work in to get his revisions out.

What is editing?

Editing is when one is finished with his revision and gives it to a colleague or another student for peer editing. During the editing process, on first pass, an editor may look for punctuation, grammar, typos and spelling errors, verb tenses, word choice, and overall consistency. On second pass, the editor may look for more including pacing, redundancies, passive writing, point of view, style and voice. There could be a third pass referred to as developmental editing, but it is usually reserved for authors who may be writing lengthy fiction.

Editing doesn’t always mean that the writer has to pare down his words. On the contrary, the writer may keep the same amount of words, but write his message in a different way.

One also could do self-editing, but if one chooses to do that, one may miss many errors. If you choose to do self editing, then, in my opinion, also try to get your manuscript before a second pair of eyes.

Some people will argue that writing is rewriting. It could mean you get more mileage from your second and third drafts than from your first.

At The Post-Journal, we subscribe to The Associated Press wire service. The AP writes stories and sends them electronically, so we can pick them up for publication. What most people don’t realize is that some of those stories we publish are a third or sometimes a seventh rewrite.

Yes, even The AP rewrites for clarity, accuracy, and for an update of information . A perfect example of this is when there is an accident where there are a lot of injuries and deaths. The first draft may be written with just a few details of the scene and what has happened.

The seventh rewrite may include the cause of the accident and some names of the deceased as well as a few quotes from eyewitnesses as well as officials reacting to the event that has occurred.

“Revising is a part of writing. Few writers are so expert that they can produce what they are after on the first try. Quite often you will discover, on examining the completed work, that there are serious flaws in the arrangement of the material, calling for transpositions. … Remember, it is no sign of weakness or defeat that your manuscript ends up in need of major surgery. This is a common occurrence in all writing, and among the best writers.”

That passage was borrowed from “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White to demonstrate that revision is part of the writing process, and with revision a writer can make his words flow with more precision.

It’s that hard.

It’s that easy.


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