Image by Denise Krebs
In Brave Writer, we separate the ideas of revision and editing. Revision is “casting new vision” for the original piece of writing. It’s a “re-imagining” of the original content. You have what you want to say, now you are considering all the various ways it can be said.
Your freewrite/draft is the jet stream of thought. It’s all of it rushing out of the writer onto the page willy-nilly.
Revision is not, now, taking that freewrite/draft and fixing commas or identifying run-on sentences. It’s not addressing tone or spelling mistakes. Those practices fall under the category of “copy-editing.”
Revision is that drastic over-haul type work that literally changes the draft sometimes so completely, the original is hardly recognizable in it any more (except maybe some sentences or the germ of the idea). Revision is where you hunker down and look at specific thoughts expressed insufficiently in the draft, and then determine how to expand them, how to enhance them, how to deepen the content or insight or facts-basis.
Revision IS writing.
In fact, most writers would say that revision is the craft, is the heart of being a writer.
What I find in parents (and even in those who claim to be writing instructors) is a tendency to skip this part of the process. They move right to editing and call it revision.
When asked to give revision notes or support, they draw a blank or they praise what’s good or they give general comments like, “Be sure you think about your audience” or “It’s a good idea to make sure your points are in a solid sequence.”
This kind of general feedback isn’t helpful to writers. What helps is to become a child’s creative partner. What you want to do, what you need to learn how to do, is how to create a dynamic partnership of idea generation.
For instance, you might see a flat-footed opening line (note: they are all flat-footed in the first draft – it’s completely rare that the first line stays the same in well revised writing). Your job isn’t to point out that it is flat-footed or could be revised. It isn’t to assign the task of making it better to your child. It’s literally to brainstorm ideas for improvements. Let’s say the child is writing about white water rafting, you might try something like this:
“I wonder how we can make this opening line grab the reader’s attention. Let me think, let me think. What if we start with the experience—Let’s get in the boat. Are you in it? What’s happening now? Close your eyes. What do you see? Blue? What shades?”
You’re jotting things down as they come out of your child’s mouth.
Then you say, “How about the water? I can imagine there’s a spray. Is there? Yes? Where did it hit? What is a water spray like? Does it remind you of anything? Oh good one! The spray of a garden hose when your brother aims it at you. Good one! Yes! Let’s jot that down.”
You’re wool-gathering. You’re collecting images, experiences, thoughts, curiosities, comments, ideas.
You aren’t telling your child what to do. You’re helping your child think freshly about what is already on the page. You are providing the dialog partner the way you would in conversation—”Then what happened? Oh wait, how did you get there? That must have been amazing! What did your brother say?”
But now, you are focused on writing and you are providing the conversational partnership that your child’s writer needs. You are thinking in writing categories but having discussions about it (natural ones). You aren’t an English teacher. You are an interested friend, partner, ally.
Do you see the difference? Stop the generalizations and get into conversations. Help get those words out.
Then, when you go back to that opening sentence, you have a selection of things to choose from that might grab the reader’s attention. Together, you can find the one and write it in a way that makes magic.
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