Creative process: Editing, revising, and rewriting your written work

By Dennis Mellersh

In writing any creative content such as articles, newsletters, short stories, novels, or non-fiction books, one of the processes on which writers have different working methods is the process of editing, rewriting, or revising their draft manuscripts.

Depending on their writing methodology for the first draft, some writers do very little revision during the initial creative process, while others revise or rewrite extensively as they progress.

Generally, writers who compose their initial drafts methodically, carefully choosing each word and phrase, and taking great care with their sentence structure, do not need to make extensive changes to their completed draft manuscripts.

Other writers, those who like to “get it all down” as quickly as possible, will be faced with the need for a lot of changes in the final revision process. Such writers often comment that taking the time to correct things as they write interferes with their train of thought and blocks the flow of their writing.

There are also writers who enjoy the entire creative writing process so much that they are in constant pursuit of perfection in their writing and will go on and on making detailed changes even in the final printing-proof stages of the writing and publishing process.

The novelist George Simenon often commented in interviews that he revised very little when editing his final draft copy. Although he wrote quickly, his main concern in the revision process was in taking out any adjectives, adverbs, and descriptive details that he felt did not contribute to moving the story along. If, for example, he found “the perfect sentence” which was there only for literary effect, he would take it out. His aim was to avoid being “too literary.”

By contrast, the writer James Thurber would labor endlessly over his drafts in an effort to “make the finished version smooth, to make it seem effortless.”

In an interview with the Paris Review, Thurber commented, “A story I’ve been working on – “The Train on Track Six” – it’s called, was rewritten fifteen complete times. There must have been close to 240,000 thousand words in all the manuscripts put together, and I must have spent two thousand hours working at it. Yet the finished version can’t be more than twenty thousand words.”

So, there isn’t really a formula or a set of rules governing the process of revising, editing, and rewriting your work; it’s a matter of your preferred method of working on your initial draft.

It’s your choice of whether you want to write slowly and revise as you write, whether you want to write, for example, a thousand words and then revise, or whether you want to write the entire draft manuscript without pausing for revision, and then make your changes at the end, working with a completed manuscript.

About Dennis Mellersh

Dennis Mellersh is an independent writer, journalist, editor, and editorial consultant.
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