Revising Your Writing Doesn’t Have to be Hell

Relish in your revisions

​Hi! Andi here, IGNITE’s head of editing. I can remember as a child running to my father with a story or school assignment I had written. I would clutch the pages in my hand, my juvenile handwriting bold and blue across the page. Ever confident in my own abilities, I wrote in pen more often than not. I would wave my work under his nose, eagerly anticipating his admiration and praise.

More often than not, he would put down his newspaper and read whatever I handed him, puffing away on his pipe and filling the air with its aromatic smoke. I would sit at his feet, bouncing slightly, inhaling the comforting scents of applewood, tobacco, and Dad, knowing in my heart of hearts that this time, he would say it: “What a wonderful story! Don’t change a thing!”

He never did, of course. First drafts are a chaotic mess and first drafts by 9 year olds are even more so. Instead, he would hum and frown and then point out all the places he would do it differently. As a teenager, we would fight bitterly over high school essays. Convinced of my own brilliance, I would accuse him of never being satisfied and he would in turn accuse me (and rightly so) of lazy writing and a habit of taking shortcuts. Eventually, grudgingly, I would revise my work. But at 9 years old, I avoided conflict and would slink away to tuck the story in a drawer, starting over with a new idea, a new story, a new attempt at getting it exactly right on the first draft.

What 9-year-old me didn’t understand is this: first drafts are meant to be terrible.

No one, not even the most talented of professional writers, gets it entirely right on the first try. There are at minimum three solid rounds of revisions before a draft is what you would call ready. After that, it still needs the deft touch of an editor followed by a round of copyediting and proofreading. In other words, the magic happens in the revisions.

The catch is that we are rarely taught how to revise. Writing and editing are very different processes: they require different focus, different approaches, and even use different parts of your brain! Taking your writing skills to the next level requires training your brain to edit. We’re taught how to brainstorm, how to outline, and how to get that first draft written, but other than some (admittedly useful) advice on how to check for spelling errors and make sure there are no typos, we’re rarely walked through the process of revising for structure, substance, emotional depth, and flow. As a result, revisions of that nature often feel like absolute hell.

Take heart! There are some easily mastered tips and tricks that can help you unpack the draft you’ve got and turn it into something that communicates clearly, flows elegantly, and draws the reader in from the very first line.

Whether you’re writing blog posts for your business, contributing to one of the IGNITE compilation books, or working on your own solo book, revising your work doesn’t have to be a hellish task. When you’ve got the revision skills you need to take a draft from blah to beautiful, you can feel confident that you can craft a compelling story that will hook your readers from the start and linger in their minds long after they’ve finished reading.

Go ahead and do a terrible job on that first draft; it’s the revisions that will make it shine!

Want to keep reading?

Browse through our other blog posts to stay up to date on all things Ignite!

Check out our new Video

Subscribe for new episodes.