Revision is at once both the best of times and the worst of times. If you are tasked with writing the strategic plan for your organization/ministry, then you will be dealing with all the challenges of writing a public document. It may sound overly dramatic, but the quality of your work will finally be judged by your ability to revise! So let me give you some tips that will ensure a more pleasurable experience as well as a premium product.
- Accept the fact from the beginning that no word you write is holy, that everything may be discarded and/or replaced. Perhaps the most common mistake of inexperienced writers is to assume that their first efforts are their best. Their virgin words feel more natural, more authentic, somehow more purely inspired. The truth is that most first offerings should be trashed. An experienced writer knows this is true and assumes it will happen, whereas inexperienced writers are offended that their words were not taken seriously. Please, get your head around the idea that much of what you write will be replaced with better writing—perhaps multiple times.
- Revision means “re-visioning” your writing. You have to look at your writing again in order to do revisioning properly. That means reading your writing as if you had not written it, which is very difficult. Often to gain this degree of objectivity, you have to let it sit for a day or two and then come back to it. Having enough time to let writing sit often seems like a luxury, but you can help yourself if you will not procrastinate the writing/revisioning so that you do not increase the pressure on yourself.
- Let other people read it and ask them to mark any place they have to stop and re-read something. You can use this tip as well when you are revising. Anytime you “stumble” in your reading or you have to go back and re-read a portion, mark that for certain revision. If others will do this for you, it will also help with the needed objectivity.
- Let others read your draft for content and clarity. Ask those people who are the best writers or best communicators AND those who are best informed in the content area about which you are writing.
- Determine who will do the final proofreading. If you are not a detail person, one well versed in grammar and punctuation, then you MUST find someone who is and have them make final corrections. These are not likely the same people who read for content and clarity.
- As the final author, you have the final say, BUT you are foolish if you don’t pay attention to every suggestion and every correction. If you don’t have a marvelous reason for rejecting a suggestion, you should probably adapt it to your text. The same is true for grammar and punctuation suggestions.
- You are not really finished until . . . well, most experienced writers never quite know when they are finished. They just know when they need to stop. Of course, you are letting your leadership team and your board read as you write, so they will be coming with suggestions each time you let them read it. When I feel like what is done should be done, then I tell my Readers that this is the final draft unless they find some glaring typo or major grammatical error. Such an ultimatum will usually stop those who continue wanting to add new objectives or new ideas to every draft they read.
If you follow these suggestions, your written products will not only be better, but your writing will improve. The more you write, the better your writing becomes. Experienced writers often incorporate some of these tips as they write, so they appear to write with much less time spent on revision. I can assure you that earlier they have accumulated the same number of hours that you need.
Learn to love revision, not dread it, and your writing will become prodigiously better!
Next: Producing the final draft of the strategic plan