Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Key-Word Cavalry: Revisions vs. Edits

Welcome to another Key-Word Cavalry day!

For all my new bloggy friends (and those who missed it before), every Wednesday except the first of the month, I answer some writing/editing etc. related questions.

I do this in two ways. I either go through the lists of key-phrases that brought hits to my blog, but that I don't feel have been addressed enough by my posts, or I answer questions asked in the comments.

So... today is the latter.

Mina asked me on 27 April: 'These are really terrific tips, some of which I've already been following. I'm not sure I quite grasp what you mean by #vi, though - would you please elaborate on the difference between "revising" and "editing"?'

My answer:


Although people use the terms revisions and edits interchangeably, they're not in fact the same thing.

Revisions involve making big changes to a manuscript. Structurally: Adding or deleting chapters and all changes that need to happen as a result. Or in the story: Getting rid of or adding characters. Redoing important plot points that will require extensive changes to the rest of the work. Or other changes for example: changes in narrative like past tense to present tense, or first person to third person point of view.

Editing involves smaller, more localized changes. Editing can be subdivided further, but I'm not going to go into that too deeply. Examples of editing: replacing words with better ones, re-organizing paragraphs (although this can fall on the revision side of the line, depending on the amount of re-organizing you plan to do), fixing spelling and grammatical errors.

So when I say start with the biggest changes, I am suggesting that you start with structure (revising), then changing things within the story (revisions), then changes in narrative (revisions). Once that's done: I suggest that you go through changes to paragraphs (as edits), then improving writing flow (edits), then replacing words (edits) and finally spelling and grammatical errors (edits).

The reason why I suggested this was simply as a way to save time. If you get stuck on small edits first and then discover that you need significant rewrites or deletions, you would have wasted lots of time fixing things that won't even make it to the next draft.

Of course, no one follows the above to the letter, but I don't think I've ever met anyone who finished edits by mixing them with revision.

Hope this helped. :-)

So! Do you agree on my somewhat short explanation of revisions vs. edits? Do you have any questions that you'd like for me to answer for Key-Word Cavalry?


  1. That's a good way to define the difference.
    And yeah, I do it in reverse. I'm a perfectionist and it just bugs me too much to see all the little mistakes.

  2. I didn't realize there was a difference between the two, thanks for the explanation.

  3. Revisions may have you shelf or abandon stories. One even ends rewriting those that are beyond help. :)

  4. Wonderful clarification! Thank you so much!!!

  5. You have defined it beautifully and also perfectly. Most of us writers use the two terms revisions and edits loosely, mixing up what we are actually doing.

  6. That is good to clarify. I thought they were kind of the same thing.

  7. Perfect definition of two things that often get lumped together.

  8. great post, I didnt to that on my first novel - by making small picture edits first I became too attached to scenes because of all the work i put into them ...and therefore reluctant to make the cuts I shouldve made when it came to big picture revisions...

  9. I agree with your definitions between revisions and editing. :) It's easy to use them interchangeably. Of course, "edit" can be used for revisions, but "revision" doesn't seem to work more for small edits. If that makes any sense. LOL!

  10. I've never actually thought about the difference between revisions and edits, but your explanation makes sense :)

  11. I've often vaguely thought there was a difference between revision and editing, but you really pinned it down, Misha. :)

  12. Your explanation makes perfect sense.
    As you no doubt gathered from reading my MS I am a revise first type. Grammar, spelling and typos are the last problems to sort out!

  13. I agree with your explanation--I originally thought that there was a difference between revising and editing, though after I started blogging I noticed a lot of people used them interchangeably.

  14. A-HA! Now I geddit! Again, great advice; I can see the wisdom of sorting out the big picture first (revising) and then cleaning up with editing. Thanks, Mischa! :-)

    Some Dark Romantic

    1. Aw, geez. How'd I misspell your name, for pity's sake - it's only, like, at the very top of this page! Sorry about that. :-/

  15. Nice and perfect Definition.
    Thanks to share.


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