What Happens When the Art of Revision Gets Messy?

Posted on October 14, 2011

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Revision sucks.

Revision, which in French means “to see again,” is the fresh vegetables of writing–it’s really good for you, and you need it in your life, but a lot of people hate it. Ignoring it doesn’t mean you don’t need it, and you surely can’t live without it.

And that last part is a message that I’m afraid my students didn’t hear quite as loudly as I wish.

I spent last weekend editing articles from three of my four classes: two of beginning news writers, whom I am teaching for the first time, and one of more advanced news writing and social media, with whom I am enjoying our second go-round of journalistic joy.

I was pretty excited by the first articles from my fledgling writers who are on the launch pad of what I hope is true journalism excellence. We are still getting to know each other, but they have, for the most part, listened and learned well.

My other class, though, was submitting the rewrite of their first article, and it became clear to me that they enjoyed writing a whole lot more than they enjoyed editing.

Guess what guys–so do I.

But I also know that I would never be the writer I am–or that I wish to be–without someone reading and guiding me to rewrite my articles to make them, in the words of the Six Million Dollar Man, “better, stronger, faster.”

We have all had editors we love and those we hate, those we thought worthy of reworking our words and those we felt were not fit to clean our keyboards.

I have been shaped by amazing editors, like Ray Paprocki at Columbus Monthly, Lynne Bonenberger at the OSU Alumni Magazine, Doug Wilks when I was at the Napa Valley Register, Scott Davis at the Columbus Dispatch and Patti Schmidt at Montgomery Newspapers. I learned from them how to be a better writer–and how to be a better editor and educator, and it is, in part, their words of wisdom I try to instill in this next generation of editors.

No matter our personal feelings about editors, they are always right when it comes to what they want and expect for their publication. And in this case, I am hoping my students can realize that listening to their editor can and will help prepare them for an editor/writer relationship in the real world.

As this weekend approaches, I am editing revisions from those beginning news writers and am pretty excited to see that they have made suggested changes and their writing is really starting to come together.

Maybe they will be the ones who love to eat their vegetables.

Any editors out there have words of wisdom for making revision more palatable to writers? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Posted in: General, Journalism