Advanced Writing Skills


Revise, Revise, Revise!

Here is some advice that no one wants to here:

That, in a nutshell, is the secret to good writing. When you're finished with your work, read it again. Now cut out a few more words. Pay attention to the Rythm. Look for ways to make your sentences flow. Then pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and do it all over again.

Nobody likes this advice because it's hard work. People would much rather learn some "secret" that will instantly make them good writers. Unfortunatley, there is no magic secret to good writing. There is only hard work.

Revise, revise, revise!

Sometimes, to make my point, I ask my students:

"Which do you think is harder—Math or English?"

My students will roar, insisting that Math is much harder. I shake my head and I tell them. "No. English is harder. And here's why:

"When you do a math problem, and you finally find the answer, you can stop. You're done. But in English, you're never done. Because you can always revise your work, to make it flow more smoothly. Your writing can always be improved, and so you're never finished. And that's why English is harder than math."

I've also made my point with the following speech (although I admit it makes me sound big-headed).

Why is it that I am the best writer in this room?

Is it because my vocabulary is bigger? Is my grammar that much better than yours? Do I know certain secrets that you have yet to learn?

No, it's none of those things—although I'll admit, that's part of it. But the biggest reason that I'm the best writer is this: I'm willing to put my writing through more drafts than you are. In other words, I don't quit.

Most of you—you quit after one or two drafts. You give up. You tell yourself, "That's good enough."

But not me. When I'm writing something—if it's something that I care about—I'll revise it again and again, and then I'll clean it up some more, until it really sparkles. I have literally written hundreds of drafts of some of the stuff that I've written.

Because here's the truth: I'm not really a better writer than any of you. In fact, many of you are far more talented than I am. But I willing to spend more time revising, and that—more than anything else—is why I can confidently say that I'm a good writer.

If you want to be a good writer, too, you need to take pride in your work. And that means putting your stuff through one more draft. Don't be satisfied with your first draft, or your second, or your third. Don't give up until your writing sparkles.

Revise, revise, revise!—and you too can be the best writer in the room.



Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.