Revision as Devotional

I write. And, in writing long and hard, I found a secret heartbeat backing my action. If prayerful, Christians often find an echo of Christ in their creative efforts. In mine, it centers around the act of revision.

But, please, don’t think “editing” when I say revision. Editing and revision form two distinct stages of the writing process. After prewriting and drafting a piece, many students simply (and erroneously) begin to edit. They remove the wrong punctuation, add forgotten punctuation, run Spell Check. In short: seek and destroy errors. They neglect the exciting part.

Revision is the stage after drafting, before editing, where you search for all the opportunities in your writing – whether essay or story or poem – and realize them.

Revision is my longest and favorite stage.

To revise, I start by searching for the weakest, most confused sentence in my work. From the beginning to the end, I hunt meticulously until I find it.

I love finding that broken, shoulder-slumping sentence, because I know what’s coming. I get to take that sentence and cherish it into beauty. I smooth out anything that’s confusing. Strong verbs replace weak verbs. What it lacks, I add. What it doesn’t need, I prune. If it uses some word that’s par, I wrestle with dictionaries and pick through all my experience until I can furnish it with the best choice English offers. Sometimes, I wed it to an adjacent sentence with an elegant transition word that makes both better than they were alone. And if my sentence has great gobs of unnecessary words that drag it down, I slice them off. Anything that impedes the sentence doesn’t stand a chance when I have decided to revise. I leave no preposition unmeditated.

I don’t stop until my weakest sentence becomes my strongest sentence. I build it into whatever it has to be in order to say exactly what it has to say.

Then, the station of weakest sentence naturally transfers to another, and I get to start my hunt again. I find that sentence and do the same thing. But, this time, it’s completely different, because all my sentences need different help in order to bear the weight of exactly what I want them to say.

It echoes a God who works revision in my life. This search-and-renew mission is familiar, and you’ve heard the parable of the lost sheep often enough that I won’t waste your time articulating links. It would sound corny written out, anyway. My description of the revision process may already appear burdened with Christian homage, but I assure you I’ve only described the revision experience as it is when you really love what you’re creating. But maybe loving what you’re creating can’t help being a Christian homage.