This is Part IV in a five-part series on keys to writing project success. In Part I, I introduced the topic, suggesting that a document may be good (i.e. well written, well organized), but not successful. I defined a successful writing project as one that “delivers not just the necessary content, but also the higher-level factors that ensure your message is heard and your objectives are served.” Those objectives include:
- Ensuring expectations (of the person who assigned you the writing task–even if it’s you) are met
- Understanding the audience
- Being clear on the document’s purpose
- Making the document an appropriate length
- Taking context into consideration
In Part I, I also presented some steps you can take in the planning stage to ensure your writing projects are successful. In Part II, I offered tips for successful research. In Part III, I suggested strategies for incorporating your planning and research work into the drafting phase. In this post, I focus on things you can do to ensure writing project success during the revision phase.
Everyone hates the dreaded red pen, but think of the revision stage as an opportunity to make your great document even better, and more successful. Here are some ideas for using this stage to your best advantage.
Get Cues From Reviews
Naturally, you will want to read over your own drafts when it comes time to revise. But, you will also want to submit your work to those who assigned you the writing project, to make sure you’re on the right track. You will be able to tell a lot from their comments, including aspects of the assignment you have misunderstood, or forgotten about; organizational issues; strategic missteps; and more low-level errors, such as grammar and word choice.
After you have allowed your draft to incubate for a time, come back to it with a fresh mind, and imagine you are a member of your intended audience. Summon to your mind everything you know about them, their concerns, and their needs. Read your draft from this perspective, and ask yourself how interested you (as your audience member) are in this information. Ask if there are any unanswered questions. Ask if there is too much information, or information that is hard to understand. Ask if you will be ready to receive this information at the time it is delivered. You may be surprised by the answers!
(Even better, if you have access to members of the intended audience, get one of them to review your document.)
Check Your Checklist
In Part III, I suggested that you create a checklist to put at the top of your draft incorporating items that must be included for success on your project. The idea was that you would refer to it throughout the drafting process. But, sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with your words and forget the high-level details. So, use your list in the revision process, too, for extra quality assurance.
Axe or Add
It’s rare to end up with a draft that is EXACTLY the right number of words. So, during the revision stage, check your word count, and adjust it accordingly. One of the hardest things for writers, particularly beginning writers, seems to be chopping their lovely words. But, if you have too many, it is necessary for you to find something to leave behind. Look for repetitive sections, irrelevant details, and unnecessary phrases. It’s not always easy to edit your own work, but doing so is key to writing project success. On the other hand, if you are shy a few (or a few hundred) words, develop ideas that could use some explanation, create new sections, or add a summary or introduction.
Get an Update
If you’ve been following the steps in this series, you have a pretty good idea of how your document should fit into the overall scheme of things–when it will be delivered, to whom, and how. Now is a good time to make sure nothing has changed. Perhaps your document is now meant to be one in a series. Maybe it is needed sooner for a trade show. It’s possible that a new focus is needed based on changing market conditions. Any changes to the information you gathered in the planning and research stages will need to be incorporated into your document.
For more tips for writing project success, check out the other posts in this series:
Part IV: Revision
Do you have examples of writing project success (or lack thereof)? Please share in the comments.
About the Author: Karen Marcus, M.A. is a Northern Colorado copywriter who has been helping clients in a wide range of industries to put their best word forward for 13 years.
Need assistance setting yourself up for writing project success? Karen can help! Click here for contact info.