As I was cleaning my desk off today, I came upon a note to myself I wrote during the last part of my draft.
“Revision is the dividing line between hobby and craft.”
I reflected on this thought. Is this the definition of a writer? Essentially, anyone with a pen and a piece of paper can write. So what makes something like a to-do list not art and something like A Tale of Two Cities literature? What is the difference between a grocery list and my thesis?
Revision is the difference, I believe. Revision with the purpose of creating something valuable and with direction to create art. No. Not editing. There is a difference.
So what is revision? I wrote a good how-to post earlier in the semester. That post is a good draft-by-draft instruction on how best to edit your copy.
This post is more about the purpose of revision. Why we revise–and that’s just more than the we-have-to answer. Again, I’m not talking about editing.
What I am talking about is purpose. What is the purpose of your revision? Answering this comes after a series of questions the writer has to ask themselves.
After you’ve put the piece your revising away (space is extremely important) you need to ask yourself and answer honestly what the piece is about. Place that summary in one sentence. Is that the focus? Does your plot and characters reflect that sentence. If it doesn’t, its time for you to re-evaluate your piece. It maybe time for a rewrite or to cut out everything that doesn’t have anything to do with what you wrote in the sentence.
These are hard cuts. Really hard cuts.
It’s during this time that you have to think about what you and your story are actually saying. That’s easier said than done, that’s for sure. But the decisions that you make now can help the arc of a story. This is also the time to ask yourself the hard question, is what I wrote the truth to the story and the characters? You may not know the answer to this question, which is okay.
Revising, like the creative part, is its own process. Just know that you’re not done with revision until you know the answer to these questions.