Chapter 7: Revising Your Work
Often, beginning writers find the writing process itself difficult enough. After struggling to get a paragraph, poem, or persuasive essay onto paper, you may wonder why on earth you should take the time and trouble to revise the substance of what you wrote. Why run the risk of mixing it up, garbling what you’re trying to say, and creating a completely nonsensical piece of writing?
Major changes to your work require you to think differently about what you wrote. Here are some ways in which making major changes can help your work.
Getting used to reordering your ideas can help you to understand which order has the most impact after you’ve tried out different options. For example, a topic like how you ended up back in school after dropping out could be written chronologically, in the same order it happened: when you dropped out, what you did afterward, and the steps you took to get back into school. Or it could be reordered, starting with the moment you realized you had to go back to school: “I’m sorry,” my boss said, handing back my application for promotion. “We only promote graduates.” Then you could fill in the backstory: why you dropped out in the first place, what you did afterward, and the steps you took once you realized you had to return to school. Opening your essay with a dramatic moment where you are confronted with the consequences of your lack of credentials could make the reader more interested than if you wrote a simple chronology.
If you are a beginning writer, however, you may want to write step by step first, to make sure you don’t miss anything. Reordering your ideas can help you take these steps and put them into a more dramatic sequence. Once you have them all written down, you can also decide which to keep as part of the revision process. Maybe your reader doesn’t need to know, for example, that for a few years, you had an unrelated sales job and that you left it for reasons that have nothing to do with your returning to school.
Reordering paragraphs can also help strengthen your entire argument and help the reader to understand the points you are making and (hopefully) come to the same conclusion as you. In a persuasive essay, for example, you will always have several points in support of your claim. Should your points go from most to least important, or vice versa? Is one point a subcategory of another? Should it go afterward to make the link obvious, or before to lead into the bigger point?
- Try reordering the ideas in a recent essay you wrote. What do you think is the most effective order of your ideas? Why?
- Try reordering the paragraphs in a recent essay you wrote. What do you think is the most effective order of your paragraphs? Why?
- Share your revision and your original with a classmate. See if your classmate can tell which is the first effort and which is your revision. Which is your classmate’s favourite? Why?