Your written piece is not yet finished even when you place the period after the last sentence of your first draft. Take a break, celebrate that you’ve completed a big chunk of it, then begin editing and revising.
REVISING is when you change the words to make the actual sentences sound better. This can be very subjective, but there are a few basic rules I can give you.
1. Eliminate repeated beginnings of sentences and paragraphs. If all the paragraphs in your essay/story begin with ‘the’ it’s going to be boring for your reader. Make sure two sentences in a row don’t start with the same word, and try to start all sentences within the paragraph differently. Try rearranging the sentence to start with a different word (The dog chased his ball down the street becomes Chasing his ball, the dog ran down the street.) You might also try adding a prepositional phrase to the beginning of the sentence. Don’t forget a comma after the phrase! (The dog chased his ball down the street becomes In the morning, the dog chased his ball down the street.)
2. Make better word choices. Look at the nouns and verbs. Can you choose one great word to take the place of an adverb and a plain verb? (ran quickly becomes scampered) or to replace a couple of adjectives? (very red becomes scarlet) HINT: There are a ton of fabulous color words. Learn a handful and use them!
3. Add sensory details. The setting is easy for you to imagine. After all, it’s in YOUR head. The reader, however, needs words on the page to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch what your characters do. Add a prepositional phrase or a carefully selected adjective to your sentence. (With gale force, the frigid wind rattled the window.) Do NOT overdo the adjectives! (With supersonic gale force, the frigid strong howling wind rattled the glass paned window.)
EDITING happens after your revision is complete. Go through your piece and look for C.U.P.S. (capitalization, usage, punctuation, and spelling) This can be very tricky because if you are good at these things you wouldn’t have made any errors in them in the first place, right? Have a classmate, a parent, or a brother or sister read over it if you can. Sometimes, if you ask for help, your teacher will read it before grading it. Learn to use the spell-check on your computer for those pieces that you type. Remember the spell-check will not catch words that are spelled correctly but used wrongly. (Eye sea ewe half too pales of water instead of I see you have two pails of water.) Have a dictionary close by, and a reference guide for those pesky commas. Remember, if you can’t find a rule, don’t put a comma there!
Any other good tips out there for revising and editing? Please share!
On my Kindle: The Help by Kathryn Stockett