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  • Writer's pictureSheri McGuinn

Writers Revise


Looking back, I accidentally pulled my first all-nighter in fifth grade. When my parents went to bed, I told them I just had to copy my essay one more time - yes, I am a dinosaur who had to write my essays in cursive and hand-draw any illustrations. I kept finishing, seeing a small error or drawing I could do better, and redoing the whole paper, until I heard my father's alarm clock go off. I still have that essay - it looks childish next to what kids can produce today with computers, but the writing was excellent.


When I was in high school, most finals included essays, often heavily weighted, and you couldn't do a bunch of revision and still finish on time. So tests during the year also included essays. Organization, coherent presentation of ideas, error-free grammar and spelling - all the elements of good writing had to be present in first drafts to do well on those tests. Again, this was all hand-written - no word processing to make corrections quickly and cleanly. It was excellent training; my first drafts are usually excellent - especially when I'm working on the computer.


But I don't publish first drafts. It's not just spelling everything right and using words correctly; it's also the flow of the piece. I'm writing this just before posting, but I've already revised the beginning a few times and I'll read through it all at least twice more before hitting publish. When I write a grant proposal or social history or any kind of non-fiction piece, it's always been revised and fine-tuned before I send it out.


And that's just revision on my own.


When there's time, and especially when I'm working with fiction, I prefer to have feedback from other people. They haven't read and re-read it and gotten stuck on one way of telling the tale. They'll tell me if I've started in the wrong spot, or included unnecessary information that starts to lose their interest. If I've revised and ended up with tense changes or other errors that make it difficult to follow, they'll tell me - or I'll hear it myself if it's a group where we read our work aloud. Sometimes they'll make suggestions that I reject (it's always the author's story in the end) but not without considering their feedback and their reasons.


Writers revise.


Sheri McGuinn - I write. Award-winning stories and novels. Screenplays and more.

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