The "R" Word
Numerous online websites about the writing process list the three most important tasks of an author as revise, revise, and revise. Either term works, but I prefer refine, refine, and refine.
The Oxford Dictionary defines revise as: “examine and make corrections or alterations to (written or printed matter).” For refine the definition is: “Make minor changes so as to improve or clarify; remove impurities or unwanted elements from.” An author may choose whichever word he/she prefers for the task, but sidestepping the process will almost always result in a work of diminished quality.
The point being made is not the quest to catch and correct spelling or grammatical errors, important as that is. The concern is for an examination of structure and vocabulary which needs to be done sentence-by-sentence. Very often a second or third examination of a line will reveal that an improvement is needed. (Frequent reaction: did I really write it that way?) Brevity, redundancy, and vocabulary will be addressed in future postings; we’re talking here simply about recognizing that what was said could be said better.
Example. Original writing: “He turned the corner that was up ahead and sped down the block as if the devil was chasing his tail.” A better alternative: “He turned the corner and sped down the block as if pursued by the devil.” The change is the removal of unnecessary words and correcting the implication that the devil could have been chasing his own tail.
It is demanding, time-consuming work that takes supreme concentration. As noted, it’s a sentence-by-sentence, two-or-three-times task that might seem dauntingly mundane. But when accomplished with diligence, the manuscript will be unquestionably improved.