To revise your writing, you need to see it through the eyes of a reader — a stranger to the text instead of the creator. Here's one recipe for revising your work.

  • Print out your draft. The first step in achieving distance is to change the medium. You may see words on a page differently than those on a computer screen.
  • Listen to the entire story. Either read it aloud to yourself or ask someone to read it to you. During the reading, sit on your hands and, if someone is reading to you, keep your mouth shut. This means you can't write on the draft or comment or respond — just listen.
  • Read the draft a second time aloud, or silently to yourself, but now every time something strikes you — a criticism, a question, a change — make a mark to record your response to something in your story. It may be something you like, something that confuses you, something you'd change or delete, or move.
  • Number every mark you've made.
  • Next to each number write down why you flagged that word or passage either on the draft or in a separate file. For example, you might jot down, "cut this," "check this with source," "move this up," "kicker?"
  • Count up the number of changes and estimate how long each will take you to revise.
  • Start with the first one — if it's a misspelled word, change it on the screen, hit save and move on — cutting, pasting, moving up or down, inserting, as quickly as possible. If you get bogged down on one, just skip over it and move on to the next. You may not be able to solve every problem in this revision. But you may get them all the next time around.
  • Once you have gone through the entire list and made changes, save the revision as a new file, hit print, and repeat until you are satisfied, or you have to give up this story to your editor.

Taken from Get Me Rewrite: The Craft of Revision, a self-directed course by Poynter affiliate Chip Scanlan at Poynter NewsU.

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