This is how I used to do it.
Write a story from beginning to end. Check it for gross grammar gufaws and spelling splunk, then submit to my instructor. After my story or poem or essay was critiqued in a workshop setting where everyone reads your work and makes comments, I would go back to my desk and edit, a few things. Sometimes I considered my classmates comments, but more often I took the lazy route and corrected only the problems I thought were issues.
My professors at UIUC told us the revisions should be "significant," yet how does one evaluate "significant"? I rationalized that my "significant" had to be significant enough. I had other classes you know, a husband, children, grandchildren, pigs that had to be fed for God's sake, thus my second draft was often completed in less than "significant" ways. I submitted it on time and I received credit for following the assignment, but what did I gain?
I knew my work could be better. I knew I took the easy way out. I knew I had shorted myself.
So, with two years of classes behind me which included three poetry and four creative writing classes plus several other classes which required nonfiction essays, I am not surprisingly, mildly appalled at some of my work. Granted a couple of pieces were brilliant, (the moon was high and bright those nights) but most were not my best work.
Now though, is my chance for serious revisions and I am delighted to tell you, I'm having a blast doing it. I saved the majority of my classmates comments and you know what? Some of those young folk were brilliant! Their comments were right on. Using phrases like, "this sounds forced" and "would a mother really say this?!" have made me laugh out loud. Much of my early work was forced and cliched and deserved the red pen, although they usually used black and once green. They said or wrote positive things too, but it was the brave ones, the ones who called me out by pronouncing, "this makes no sense at all," who push me forward now.
Below is one of my stories and the section in italics was the memory a son had of his father. One of my classmates comments is on the left. he wrote, "I understand the sentiment here, but it feels too perfect, like a sepia toned photograph."
Sepia toned photograph. My classmate nailed it, the scene was entirely too sappy and at this point in my story, the father had not earned his sons fond memories of him. I ended up taking out the scene entirely and the story gained its own validity.
So, how do I revise now? I read a piece of my work, twice. The first time I just read, but the second time, I read it out loud. Our eyes can fool us into thinking we've written something well, but when read aloud, the bumpy parts are heard, like nails on a chalkboard. If I have them, I read through the comments made by others, but only once. I look for trends in the comments.Then, I set drafts, comments, everything, out of reach, and I rewrite the piece from scratch. This was a technique suggested by Professor John Rubins at UIUC. He said, "What is good will reappear, and what is bad will fall away."
Often my final draft is very different from my first draft, a result I have come to appreciate.
Try revising some of your work this way, and let me know your thoughts. Or,take a moment and tell me your revision process and why it works for you.