Changing the meaning, content, structure, word choice, or style of a piece of writing, in order to most effectively express an idea and/or communicate to an audience. Revision happens throughout the writing process when writers add, remove, move and substitute text.
Kate DiCamillo made several drafts of her novel, Because of Winn Dixie (originally titled Two Onions, Four Garlic Bulbs, and a Dog Named Winn Dixie), available to students at www.scholastic.com/winndixie/story.htm.
my dog’s name is winn dixie on account of that is where I found him. he was in the produce department and you know they don’t like dogs mixed in with all the fruit and vegetable. the produce manager, he was all excited, waving his arms around and chasing winn Dixie, screaming, “that dirty dog. who let that dirty dog in here?”
Notice what the author is doing here. As she puts it, “This first draft is how I do all first drafts: single-spaced, capital-free, light on the punctuation and full speed ahead. In a first draft, I concentrate on moving forward and trying not to panic.”
My name is India Opal Bulconi and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni and cheese and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog. This is what happened. I walked into the produce section of the Winn Dixie grocery store to pick out my two tomatoes and I almost bumped right into the store manager. He was standing there all red-faced, screaming and waving his arms around.
"Who let a dog in here?” he kept on shouting. “Who let a dirty dog in here?”
Notice how the author now has settled on a name for the protagonist and seems to be better acquainted with her. She’s fixed the mechanical details and figured out how to get her story rolling. About this draft, she says, “So much of writing is like walking down a dark hallway with your arms out in front of you. You bump into a lot of things. You pick things up and then put them down. I guess I picked up a couple of names for Opal and put them down and then finally I picked up the right one and thought, “yes, this is it.”
Fifth and Final Draft:
My name is India Opal Buloni and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni and cheese, some white rice and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog. This is what happened. I walked into the produce section of the Winn-Dixie grocery store to pick out my two tomoatoes and I almost bumped right into the store manager. He was standing there all red faced, screaming and waving his hands around.
“Who let a dog in here?” he kept shouting. “Who let a dirty dog in here?”
How does a writer know when she or he is finished? DiCamillo says, “It’s often a matter of instinct, of feeling your way through what works and what doesn’t. The only thing I’ve found that works is to keep on working and not to expect that you will get it right the first time.”
Revision is not the same as editing. Revision is about shaping, honing, and clarifying. A writer revises while writing. For more on editing, go to the “Editing” page. As Donald Murray, a prize winning journalist and teacher, explains, “During revision the writer looks forward from the point of view of the creator who is discovering the evolving meaning; during editing, the writer looks backward from the point of view of the reader.”
It is a mistake to consider revision the last step of a process. To write effectively, the trick is to revise and reshape frequently, always keeping the Big Picture in mind. It is important. After all,
"Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it's where the game is won or lost."
(William Zinsser, On Writing Well. 2006)