Writing: Let the Draft Breathe

You’ve dismissed the inner editor and created the first draft of your blog post, report, book chapter, whatever. You’re on a roll — what next?

Now walk away. Give it some breathing room.

Writing and revising are separate disciplines, and don’t work well when they crowd each other.

If you start revising immediately after drafting, you’ll miss things.

  • You cannot see problematic sentence structures, typos, repeated words, or other problems, because you know what you meant to say and see that instead.
  • You also don’t notice the parts that read well or are pretty darned good, because you remember the struggle.

You’re too close to see both the flaws and strengths of a draft until time passes.

Fit Rest into the Writing Schedule

When scheduling a project, leave time between the drafting and revision phases. If you were creating a recipe for productive writing, the instruction would be this:

For best results, let sit overnight.

When I skip the overnight rest period before sending or publishing, I often notice errors, typos, and other things I could have improved. I missed an opportunity to make the piece better.

What if you don’t have the luxury of waiting overnight?

If you’re in a rush and need to revise right away, go for it. But try using the following practices to improve the quality of the result:

  • If possible, run your piece past someone whose judgment you trust. Ask for the level of input you’d welcome, such as error-checking and proofing, or reading for flow and clarity.
  • Create distance in space and format. Print out the piece, get up from your desk, and read it out loud in another room. The change of venue offers distance, and the act of verbalizing the writing lets you ‘hear’ as well as see it. You’ll discover parts that don’t work when you trip over reading them aloud.
  • Combine the two practices and read the piece to someone. (This works best for short pieces, with a tolerant listener.)

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[Image from Ryan McGuire on Gratisphotography.]

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