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The Process of Rewriting

What is the difference between a first draft and a finished piece? Most professional writers will tell you that the real work of writing is the rewriting. While not every piece requires a thorough reworking, it’s a good idea to set aside a piece after it has been written and read it again several days later with fresh eyes.

As with any discipline, it’s a good idea to develop a “process.” Even if a person is simply contributing a one-off article to a technical journal, he should be prepared to spend a few days or even a week refining the piece before submitting it. Many beginning writers do not understand just how much work is involved in crafting a truly engaging and interesting piece.

Rough/First Draft

Very few professional writers are able to write a piece flawlessly from beginning to end in one sitting. In order to avoid becoming frustrated, many writers allow themselves to write a “rough draft.” This means they focus more on getting the idea or concept of the piece onto paper and less on specific word choice or even correct grammar. This strategy can be helpful if a writer is having difficulty beginning his piece. By allowing himself to simply write as he thinks, the piece will flow naturally from his mind onto the page.

Rewriting for Conceptual Clarity

There is no set number of times a piece should be rewritten. Some pieces are virtually flawless when they are first committed to paper; others require multiple drafts before they are suitable for presentation. The piece is not finished until it communicates the idea in the most clear and elegant prose possible. At this stage, the writer should read the piece to determine that all the content is relevant to the main topic. Any tangents, asides or off-topic material should be eliminated. There should also be a natural flow to the information communicated in the piece.

The first and last paragraphs of any piece are the most important. The first paragraph should give the reader an overview of the piece’s topic. The final paragraph should neatly summarize the points made in the piece while leaving the reader with a powerful impression. When the writer is checking for conceptual clarity, he should make sure that his first and last paragraphs contain the most important information in the piece. The other paragraphs should explore the main points of the piece in such a way that sets up the last paragraph for a powerful conclusion.

Word Choice, Spelling and Grammar

When the piece is structurally perfect, the writer may then check for spelling and grammar mistakes. He may also spend time editing his word choices for brevity. As an example, instead of writing:

…the months of November, December, and January…

The writer may decide to change this to:

…the winter months.

By taking the time to divide the work of writing into a distinct process, a writer can transform an average piece into a remarkable work.

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