WriteCast Episode 57: Steps for Revising, Part I: The Big Stuff
© Walden University Writing Center 2018
CLAIRE: Welcome to Write Cast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers, a monthly podcast by the Walden University Writing Center. I’m Claire Helakoski,
KACY: and I’m Kacy Walz.
Today we’ll discuss how to apply revisions in your work and walk you through some approaches to larger-order revision.
CLAIRE: Hello Walden students! Today we’ll be discussing everyone’s favorite topic: revision. Sometimes you might get feedback from your faculty or a Writing Instructor and wonder, “now what?” We’ll walk through some steps to applying larger order feedback to your work to assist you in strengthening your work and working towards your writing goals today. To get us started, Kacy, would you share a little bit about how you usually revise or some challenged in revision for you?
KACY: So, I actually used to hate revision. I really struggled with it a lot, because it was always really hard for me to go back and look at something that I’d previously written without either wanting to keep it exactly the way that it was—because I was sure that it was perfect—or just cringing because I felt like it was so bad. But now I actually really love revision, so one thing that I do is I try to start out with just getting something on the page. With the intent of going back and revising once I kind of have all my thoughts out. So, that’s kind of my revision process, is starting with something that I know is not anywhere near what I want it to look like in the end, so that the revision process is almost like my writing process, in a very strange way.
CLAIRE: I actually have a sort similar approach to writing my first couple drafts, as well, Kacy. Where I write really messy drafts and then plan to revise them heavily. So, if that’s your method, that works, too. And when I’m revising for feedback specifically, like feedback from an instructor or a peer, maybe, then I tend to kind of focus on the larger things before I focus on the smaller things. Since those kind of bigger changes end up moving around sentences or ideas or whole paragraphs sometimes. So, it doesn’t really make sense to spend my time focusing on those smaller changes first, since they might not even be there in my later draft. And so I usually focus on revising on one big topic at a time so that I can really focus on transitions and just work on those transitions and then plan to go through the draft multiple times focusing on different types of revision.
KACY: That’s a great plan, and I think it also helps because, like you said, you’re not going to know what the small issues are going to be once you’ve done that larger revision. And part of it, too, is deciding what kinds of responses or how you want to respond to the specific feedback that you’ve gotten. Because that’s part of the work as well, as a writer.
So, let’s talk through how we might revise a paper once we have feedback.
CLAIRE: It’s really important to not overwhelm yourself, right? Because then you’ll never be able to get those revisions done. So, you want to really be sure that you’re focusing on manageable steps one at a time. Your goal shouldn’t be “I want to make this draft perfect immediately” because that is setting yourself up for a really, really difficult time. So, instead I suggest breaking the larger categories like organization, for example, into those smaller, specifics. So, what exactly would a focus on organization look like? What might be some subcategories in that particular larger topic?
You might want to focus on using the MEAL plan, on expanding ideas, on clarifying your introduction and conclusion, or all three. So, I recommend if you have these really big categories and you’re not sure where to start, take a few moments to reflect and write down the items that kind of fall into that category for revision. Or if you’re faculty or Writing Instructor provided a list, you can use that. I know I always try to make lists for my students in my paper reviews. So, that can be a helpful tool. And you can keep that list in mind or even visible either in a Word document or a sticky note, so as you’re revising you can focus on the different categories that you want to work on, and the subcategories within those bigger ideas.
KACY: I love that, it’s kind of like you are creating an outline for your revision plan.
KACY: And so, once you actually have that outline you can take it step-by-step, and here’s some advice on how we might suggest that you attack that outline that you’ve created for yourself. So, if you want to work on paragraph development, for instance, maybe your feedback was that each paragraph seems to have a focus, but is maybe missing a strong topic sentence or maybe is missing that lead out that ties everything together. So now you have your first element, and if you’re feeling lost about these concepts, you can check out some of our Writing Center resources. You can search through our website or come in to Live Chat for some resources on whatever you’re looking for. So first, be sure you understand what your feedback is asking for, and what you’d like to work on, and how you’d like your work to look.
CLAIRE: Right, that’s a really important part of revision, because if you’ve never heard of the MEAL plan before, and you’re trying to revise to meet the MEAL plan, that’s going to be really difficult. So, make sure that you use our resources. We provide links in our paper reviews and I know some faculty do too, but you can always reach out to us if you’re looking for support or helpful resources on any writing topic. And we’ll include a few in our show notes at the end, too.
So after you’ve taken the time to be sure you know what you’re revising towards, what you want it to look like, you understand the terms that are being used, then you can go through your work and look at just those couple of things. So, for the example that Kacy just mentioned, you can look at the beginning and ending of each paragraph and write down some ideas you have about how these topics connect to your thesis so you can add that topic sentence and lead out. If you’ve revise for this before, and you want to just jump in without doing the sort of outlining step first, you can do that, too. Start where you feel comfortable in your writing process and when you feel ready to start applying some revision. And then keep going through your whole draft. Even if your faculty or Writing Instructor didn’t specifically comment on every paragraph. Because, at the Writing Center we commented on those bigger patterns in your work, so they’re probably going to keep continuing. And it’s good practice to help see where you maybe do have some strong topic sentence later on so you can use those as inspiration as you revise, or you might that this is a pattern in every paragraph which means it’s something that’s good that you’re paying attention to now.
KACY: That’s such a great point, and I really love pointing out to students, where they have an effective example in their own writing, so they can see, “this is a place where I’ve already done this really well, so how can I model these other topic sentences or the other transitions so that they look like this already effective, already solid transition or topic sentence…”
So, once you’ve gone through your entire document, I really recommend that you take a break. Step away from the paper and give yourself a little bit of a breather so that you can come back to it with fresh eyes. So, once you’ve had a little time to refresh, go through the next item on your list, either in the same category or a new category. This probably sounds like a lot of work, but it will definitely start getting easier over time as you start internalizing all of these steps in your practice of revision.
Another great idea for future drafts is to keep that list that you made or that outline and bullet points in each larger category. That way when you go to work on another paper or another draft, you can check through your list before you submit to the Writing Center or to your class. This will empower you as a writer to focus on your own writing, to focus on growth and polishing your work one more step at a time before submitting.
And over time you might shift from a focus on organization to something totally different, because you find you’re meeting your own goals and you have maybe gotten feedback on some other areas. There’s always something to work on, but you’ll have lots of notes from your feedback to look back on and mark and celebrate your progress. Over time you’ll probably spend less time revising, because you’ll already know what to look for in your own work.
CLAIRE: I definitely found that to be true in my own writing and with my student who I work with regularly, that it’s taking less time because I can really see their progress and how they’re internalizing and applying feedback as they write and kind of integrating it as part of their writing process, before they even submit it for review. So, students, be sure to remember to take feedback in those small pieces and focus on those themes to start, those bigger things to start. You can break the themes into smaller pieces to help yourself go through them one concept at a time. Also, be sure to check out our resources, if you’re feeling stuck, unsure what to do, ask us questions, let us know, we are, you know, here to support you in your writing process.
Kacy, do you have any final advice or thoughts for revising writers out there?
KACY: Yeah, one piece of advice I have is just knowing that feeling stuck a pretty common experience. And we have lots of resources on our website and on our blog about ways to overcome that stuck feeling. Because we’ve all been there.
CLAIRE: That’s definitely, definitely true.
KACY: For more information on some of the resources we’ve talked about in this episode, you can check out one of WriteCast’s early episodes on the 5 R’s of Revision, that was episode 14. Our website also has some very helpful resources for revision. If you start on our homepage and click on the Grammar and Composition tab at the top, you’ll find Writing a Paper in the drop-down menu and then Revising link in the left side bar. You can also just use the search function for all of these different topics. We also have a lot of sub-pages on topics like revising in general, or revising based on feedback, and how to focus on those larger ideas. You might also like Improving Your Writing: Strategies for Revising, Proofing, and Using Feedback, which is a recorded webinar in our webinar archives. And you can search our blog for revising and revision at waldenwritingcenter.blogspot.com.
CLAIRE: Be sure to check out those resources and thanks for listening today, students! Look out for a second episode on revision where we’ll focus more on those smaller order revisions, coming up soon! And remember, keep writing!
KACY: Keep inspiring!
KACY: WriteCast is a monthly podcast produced by the Walden University Writing Center. Visit our online Writing Center at academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter. Find more WriteCast episodes on iTunes,Stitcher,TuneInor your favorite podcast app. We would love to hear from you. Connect with us on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter, and at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!