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Fearless Protagonist

You’re Always a Work in Progress: Helpful Tips from the Revision Process

“To an author, editing can be a nightmare, but also the most constructive and necessary part of the writing process.”

Wait, scratch that.

Try this out instead: “A writer’s constant friend, and sometimes worst enemy, is the process of drafting and editing.”

That, my friends, was my thought process of revising that first line. I wrote something that came to mind, but by changing a few words, I was able to say it more concisely in the edit. I’m constantly rewriting sentences where the wording is just slightly off, so thank goodness for word processing programs in the modern age that don’t waste ink for all my mistakes.

Actually, I don’t think ‘mistakes’ is quite the right word. For a writer, a ‘mistake’ is just the way you figure out what you really mean. Mistake implies some kind of accidental mishap. Whereas, in this case the word choice was intentional, but the connotation I wanted was something more like that of experience.

What does that mean?

Well, all the things that come out of my keyboard give me a different experience of the sentence. When I backspace and rewrite it, I might like it better, but only because I’ve read it both ways now. Does that make sense? It doesn’t sound like much of an edit since it’s happening during the writing stream rather than after, but it still is.

“I believe that all writing is rewriting–even when you’re writing something down for the first time, it’s still an act of translation in a way because you’re trying to use text to bring life to this thing that exists in your mind.” That’s from the mouth of John Green, who saved 192 different files of drafts for the well-loved novel, The Fault in Our Stars.

In the same vein, everything you do in life should be some kind of editing. Editing is important to writers, of course, because they’re creating something that they want to sound just as they imagine it, but you do that too in your day to day actions.

You have a vision of how you want your life to look, and you’re trying to actualize it. That’s the same goal as writing. Thus, if you want the best results, take a page from the writers’ book and practice the oft-painful art of editing.

But, I don’t praise it for nothing—it does come with some very valuable lessons.

1. You really learn to benefit from criticism.

If someone can tell you one of your weaknesses, you are luckier than you might think. It seems bad to have weakness, but it’s even worse to not know what it is that limits you.

All writers need a second opinion on their work, because we are all blind to the weaknesses in our writing. But once you’re aware of them, you’re able to make changes to improve your faults, and possibly eliminate them.

Career-wise, if you know what you’re doing wrong in interviews or in the office, you can make the adjustment for next time; you’ll find stronger answers to tough questions, the right posture or etiquette for the situation, etc.

2. You need to constantly reevaluate your direction.

When you are continually checking your progress and your happiness with it, it’s a lot easier to spot those plot holes and flaws. Don’t wait until the end of your story, or a particular subplot within your story, to make corrections. This will only lead to regret.

Doing more edits along the way is a lot easier than trying to do one massive one at the end. If you realize you don’t enjoy the major you’re in, or if the job you thought you wanted turns out to be utterly dull, better to change out of it now and not waste time complacently waiting for it to get better. Benefit from the experience you’ve had and then make the necessary adjustments to move on and find something more suited for you.

3. You’re never going to be a final draft.

That might sound dismal, but it should give you hope! While, yes, a book or an article will have a final edition that gets printed, there are probably still things that the author wanted to change but couldn’t.

But there will never be a final, set version of you that you have to be stuck with forever! You have the potential to change and be anyone you want to be, and you can always improve yourself.

Your career, your goals, your dreams can and should keep changing. Just because you wanted to be a doctor when you were ten years old, doesn’t mean you have to now. You’re a dynamic human being that is constantly being revised and rewritten.

Most authors only write a small portion of a character’s life, but you have been and will be writing yourself and your story for every moment of your life. Over the course of your lifetime, you have the potential to express every part of who you are, so don’t let the draft you produce at twenty-one be the draft you’re still working with at thirty. 

Take a moment to reevaluate which draft you’re living with at the moment, and see if you can’t revise it a bit before you move forward with the next stage of your life.

As long as you continue to revise and edit your story, both based on what you see and what people who care about you see, you can ensure that it becomes the masterpiece you want it to be.

So what are you waiting for?

The new draft of you starts today!
















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