What’s handier—or more frustrating—than how easily we can rewrite?
In the old days when we used typewriters, every change meant erasing or whiting out words or starting an entirely fresh page.
These days we can recast any word, any sentence, any paragraph with an almost unconscious series of mouse clicks and keystrokes.
On the one hand, I love it!
On the other, I find it maddening.
I mean, how is it that we can rewrite the same sentence five times, let it sit for a few days—or weeks—and find five more ways to write it?
When is enough enough? How do you know when a sentence is the best it can be?
It reminds me of when I was a kid and my mother asked me to clear the table. The final task was wiping down the surface to remove any food scraps.
Mom says that most of the time I did more rearranging than cleaning.
That’s how revising can seem. You start to wonder whether you’ve improved it or have just rearranged the mess.
Believe it or not, there are two ways of knowing when you’re done—when revising more would make it only different and not better.
1—Trust your gut.
Knowing what sounds right, what reads best, is what being a writer means. You should be writing for yourself and believing there are myriad others out there just like you. When it reads the way that feels right to you, stop. You’re there.
2—Read it aloud.
When you hear it, everything becomes clear—whether you’re reading it to yourself or someone else. Any phrasing that causes a hesitation or a hitch in your delivery is a clue.
This Is What It Means to Be a Writer
Knowing when you’ve gone from making a sentence better to making it only different is what makes you a writer. Make this decision with every sentence you write, determined to make your entire manuscript the best you can—even knowing you’ll be edited again at the publishing house.
Commit to submitting only your absolute best writing.
What does your revision process look like? Tell me in the comments.