There’s an on-going and usually amiable argument about what revision means. The hard core insists it means “seeing again.” Seeing the whole thing. Literally re-visioning it. That concept often gives students what my grandmother actually called the screaming meemies. Who can blame them. Nobody really wants to start over, even if it’s the right idea.
The other point of view about revision is word-smithing. Little stuff like a sentence’s rhythm, a vivid verb over a pallid one, a chubby paragraph slimmed down until it fits into those gray dress pants.
I’m a word (some would say wordy) kind of guy, and I’ve had some luck word-smithing when it comes to revision. It goes like this: Revising a single sentence or paragraph until it’s gorgeous tends to throw into relief everything else on the page and, in fact, the whole manuscript. It works micro to macro.
Here’s an analogy: my first wife and I used to go to San Francisco and see a friend of mine from grad school. Jack loved clothes and wore them well. So Cherry Jean and I would be ready to go but Jack would be revising. Not from head-to-toe. Not at first, anyway. He’d change his cuff links or his socks and then look in the mirror. Next the tie would go, then a belt with a silver buckle instead of the pewter one. You know how this is going to end, right? With a whole other outfit.
The issue may be Beauty. If a page can be made more beautiful, why not the entire manuscript?
But not today. It’s Sunday. Put on your glad rags and meet somebody cute.