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The truth about revisions

May 17, 2013

From long before the time I wrote the first post on this high-quality Internet product, I have held to the fundamental truths that I’m not good at revisions and that I’m horrible at proofreading my own work.

I was wrong.

And if you hold to those “truths,” odds are very good that you’re wrong, too. It took writing professionally to figure this out.

I’m actually bad at a lot of things. I can’t hit a curveball worth a damn. Or throw one. I can’t do scrimshaw very well and I’m absolutely horrible at painting pictures. My long game stinks and my short game is actually worse. And if you listened to me try to play the piano, you’d double your respect for Stevie Wonder and Ronnie Milsap.

All of these things have one very important thing in common–hitting a baseball, scrimshaw, painting, and golfing aren’t things I’ve worked at. There are people who can do all those things, and while many of them are blessed with talent in those areas, they also work at them. A lot.

Take a look at guys who play baseball for a living. They’ve practices for tens of thousand of hours. They wear out the nets they’re hitting baseballs into. They go through hundreds of balls and maybe dozens of bats. They’re the kids whose mothers call them in because it’s too late, or too cold, or raining to hard. They work at it harder than anyone thinks is reasonable and appropriate. And then when they finish that, they work on it some more.

It’s the same with revisions and proofreading. The reason I suck at revisions and proofreading is that I do what’s reasonable and I move onto the next thing. I don’t do the equivalent of hitting while it’s too late or too cold or raining too hard.

It’s quite simple. The way you do revisions is that you do it, and then you do it again. And then you do it again. And you make notes as you go through, where you call out things that might not fit with other things. Then you do compare those things. And then you fix them and read it again. And then you read it again and look for other things that might not fit together and resolve them. And then you do it again and again and again and again.

You do it until it’s as close to perfect as you can possibly get it.

And to be honest, I haven’t done those things. I guess I’ve been lazy. Or misinformed. Or naive.

In reality, it doesn’t matter what I’ve been. It matters what I know now and what I do with it.

How about you? Are you doing everything you should for revisions? Proofing? Writing?

If not, why not?

Because if you’re going to make it, you’ve got to be that kid down the street with blisters on his hands and a mom who thinks he’s nuts to be standing out in the rain hitting a baseball for the 43 millionth time.

One Comment
  1. May 18, 2013 12:41 pm

    Yes, work on your ‘baby’ until it’s ‘perfect’ in your eyes, then hand it over to other sets of eyes: other writers willing to read it, then a professional editor. You will usually find that your 20/20 vision was a wee bit less than! And don’t let competition from the mill-grinders rush you into publication before it’s ready. I’ve read or listened to pieces that seem written by third-graders who got into their daddy’s liquor locker. Even first drafts show your diligence …or lack thereof.

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