Editing vs. Revising: The Real Difference

Unknown Editing and Revising Symbols
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You’ve reached the point in the writing process where it’s time to make some serious changes. Congratulations!

Editing vs. Revising: The Differences

Credit: littlepieceoftape.blogspot.com

Now it’s time to pick up that red pen and make some small and big alterations to your writing. This is called the editing process and the revision process.

Here’s where it gets confusing. The terms editing and revising are often used interchangeably. Even I’m guilty of doing that.

But there are key differences between editing and revising. I like to refer to this chart:

But I can also spell it out.

The Truth About Editing

Editing is about making the surface of the words nice and shiny. It’s like washing your car after driving across the country.

Editing means:

  • Capitalizing proper nouns such as names, places, titles and months
  • Correcting the use of nouns and verbs in sentences
  • Adding or removing punctuation such as periods, quotation marks, commas and apostrophes
  • Fixing misspelled words and awkward phrases
  • Deleting unnecessary words

The Truth About Revising

Revision takes editing beyond the surface level. Revising requires you to focus on the meaning of the words. To put it in another way, revising is like popping the hood on your car to see why it makes that funny noise.

Unlike the editing process, there are two levels to the revision process. That’s because, like a car, fixing that funny noise can lead to another leak you can’t see.

The first level of revising means:

  • Adding or removing sentences
  • Moving sentences or paragraphs to earlier or later in the writing
  • Improving transitions
  • Switching sentences from passive to active voice

The second level of the revising process focuses on the big picture of your writing. It’s about making sure that all the parts are in the right places and that it all flows coherently.

The second level of revising (for an essay or college paper) means:

  • Stating the thesis clearly
  • Ensuring all paragraphs support the thesis
  • Fact-checking all sources
  • Strengthening your argument
  • Interweaving arguments that challenge your thesis and disproving their views

The second level of revising (for a narrative) means:

So, Does Editing Or Revising Come First?

There’s a lot of debate on this subject. And the right answer hasn’t been established yet.

Here’s what I recommend: Start in reverse. Revise your writing by looking at the big picture. Then revise for sentence flow and order. Wrap it up with editing every letter and punctuation mark.

I find this way saves a lot of time. Why spend hours capitalizing words if you end up cutting out that entire paragraph tomorrow?

Sometimes, the editing and revising process overlaps. I often fix the spelling of a word or shift passive into active voice while I’m heightening the action of a scene.

Finding what works for you takes time as well as some trial and error. Even our processes can use some revising and editing.

What do you think the real difference is between revising and editing? Share your thoughts below.

Stop Writing Pointless Conversations. No, Seriously.

When I want a pointless conversation, I'll let you know
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I was in the bookstore the other day—my favorite place in town—and I was driven out by one awful occurrence: A pointless conversation.

Two people, one employee and one patron, sort of recognized each other. So, out of politeness for their fuzzy memories, they started the dreaded how-are-yous.

**Long, deep groan**

The conversation wouldn’t die. They went on to talk about the weather (how about this rain we’re having?) and living in this town (yeah, I really like it here) and generic news (can you believe what so-and-so said about such-and-such?)

I started weaving down the aisles and reading titles out loud to drown out their mundane dialogue. But monotone voices carry in a quiet bookstore.

I could only stand it for ten minutes. I left.

Why is this a pointless conversation? Because there was no value in anything they said.

These two people could have done something more worthy of their time. The patron could have spent her time finding a book in the store that would change her life. And the employee could have spent his time, you know, working.

Who really finds fulfillment in talking about the weather?

We’ve all picked up that book or watched that movie where there is a pointless conversation. It probably wasn’t about the weather, but it was at the same level of who-gives-a-hoot.

I’m not against talking about the weather. I’m against how it’s discussed.

Let’s define it: A pointless conversation is one that doesn’t invite growth of character, change of emotion or value to the task at hand.

So ask yourself this: Are your characters having pointless conversations?

State the goals of the conversation before you read over your dialogue. If your characters are talking only to fill up space on a page, then cut it. Keep only what drives character growth and plot.

How To End A Pointless Conversation

When you find a pointless conversation in your story’s dialogue, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who starts the pointless conversation? Why?
  2. Who keeps the pointless conversation going? Why?
  3. Do the characters ever realize that the conversation is pointless? When?
  4. What do these characters really want to talk about?

If your readers start walking, then it’s time to get your characters talking…about something else.

Do your stories suffer from pointless conversations? How do you fix them? Share below.