Today, I am going to talk about revising our work. Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” He was right. While writing a first draft, the only goal is to get the story out and written down somewhere, on paper, on a computer, wherever. Get it written. That’s the first draft of any work, fiction or nonfiction. Once you do that, you need to revise the work. You want to get the grammatical errors out of your manuscript. You don’t want to use the same words over and over and over — you get the picture.
You want the writing to be fresh and new. So you want to remove any clichés that might creep into your text. They do creep in. Look for them and find another way to say what you want. Your readers will thank you.
Another thing to look out for is passive voice. No one wants to read something like: The ball was thrown by Jim and caught by John. A double date was to follow the game. Carrie was taken out by Jim, while Anne was taken out by John. Snore. You would rather read, Jim threw the ball and John caught. A double date followed the game. Jim took Carrie out and John took Anne. You have to be careful here. There are several places where passive voice can look like past tense and does. If you can rearrange the words and keep the meaning the same, you have passive voice. Of course, that may only work in English. I’m not sure about any other languages.
Some passive voice is good. All passive voice, or active voice, is bad. No one will read something consisting of “this was done to that style” sentences. It’s dull and slow. Conversely, no one will read “this happened, this happened, this happened,” either. It’s too exhausting. You want a balanced mixture. Highlighting the places where you have passive voice makes them stand out, as it is supposed to. If you have more highlights than not, you should fix them. On the whole, an equal share is OK.
Repetition is something else to look for. Most word processing software can find all the instances of a certain word. Use that feature to highlight commonly repeated words like ‘that’, or ‘just’, both of those are often unnecessary and can be completely eliminated. To find repetitions you can also use the word frequency feature of most word processors. They will tell you how many times you have used a particular word. For example, I have used the word ‘the’ twenty-two times in this blog.
Revision is a lot of hard work, but your writing will be better for it and your readers will love you for it. Revise, my friends. Revise and become better writers.