John then looks at how his essay is organized and developed, and he noticed many ways that these aspects of his paper could be stronger. John sees that he has a general point for each body paragraph, but he notices that he sometimes is not as well focused on the points as he could be. For example, the first body paragraph begins with the idea that "the mother is trying to care for her family," but there is some information in that paragraph that does not seem to be clearly related to this idea, such as the sentences "One child has his hands to his face, showing that he is sad about the situation. Both children are looking down because they are depressed." John seems to have drifted from the idea about the mother caring for her family, or at least he is presenting information without explaining how it is helping him develop this main point.
After John writes his first draft, he gives himself a break from the essay for a while. He needs to put a little distance between himself and his essay so that he can better evaluate his writing. After this break, John is ready to begin the task of revising his essay.
On the most basic level, you should be able to consciously justify the presence and placement of every word in every sentence, every sentence in every paragraph, every paragraph in every essay. To repeat: in revising your papers after the first draft (which is always, inevitably to some degree confused because you are involved in the process of working your ideas out), you should be highly conscious of what you are doing and why you are doing it.
Only one of John's revised paragraphs is copied above, but he made extensive changes to all of the other part of his essay, including the introduction and the conclusion.
Once John started revising his essay, it was difficult for him to stop. He kept noticing more and more things about his essay that he thought he could make better. That's good. John thought that he had a good first draft of his essay, but the revision process made it clear to him just how much better it could be.
In class one day, the professor asked a student who had earned an "A" on his essay how long it took the student to complete the essay. The student said that it took him about two hours to write the essay and about six hours to revise it. This surprised John and made him realize that he should spend more time trying to revise his writing.
These OWL resources will help you with the writing process: pre-writing (invention), developing research questions and outlines, composing thesis statements, and proofreading. While the writing process may be different for each person and for each particular assignment, the resources contained in this section follow the general work flow of pre-writing, organizing, and revising. For resources and examples on specific types of writing assignments, please go to our Common Writing Assignments area.
Once, John wrote a first draft of an essay, proofread the draft and made some corrections, and then turned in that first draft as his final draft. He earned a low grade on that essay, and the professor even noted John did not seem to have revised his writing. John knows the importance of revising.
John has only begun the revision process, but he already realizes that there are many aspects of his essay that he will need to work on strengthening. He thinks back to that first draft of an essay that he once submitted as his final draft, and he is embarrassed, but he is pleased to think about how much stronger this essay will be after he makes the many improvements to it as he revises his draft.
John realizes that there are other ways that his essay could be stronger, but he has given himself a helpful list to guide him through his first revision of his draft. He loads his word processor, opens up the first draft of the essay, and begins to make the changes.
John has spent a few hours revising his first draft, and while he plans to revise his essay more and has not yet proofread it, he is much happier than he was with the quality of his essay.
Below are two versions of one paragraph from John's essay--one version from the first draft and the same paragraph after John revised it. Notice the many improvements that John has made as he revised.
Notice how well John addressed those aspects of his essay that he identified as needing improvement as he began the revising process. In particular, he has given his paragraph a good focus, has described parts of the photograph more vividly, has added some transitional words and phrases, has cut down on his overuse of "is," has used longer and more varied sentences, and has made his paragraph more interesting by using better wording.
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