Revising vs. Editing — What's the Difference?

Welcome back, HoneyScribblers! Today's post is all about revising and editing. Now, you may think they're the same thing, but they're really not! Let's get down to the differences. As always, read on and enjoy.


In writing, revising means to look at something from a fresh perspective, in a sense. This doesn't mean that you can only revise after you've taken a long break from your work; you can begin the revision process whenever you want after your first draft. Some choose to do full rewrites and others wait until they've reached their third or fourth draft to do so. In revising, here are some things you should do:

1. Take notes while reading through your work. To do this, try and clear your head as much as possible. After you've finished, you can do a read-through of the story, but after that, the best route to take is putting your book aside for a while before delving into it again. This will help you enter a reader mindset, and that's what you need to accurately revise your story. Consider the following:

  • How do you introduce your characters?

  • How do you reveal each plot point?

  • Does the plot make sense?

  • Do you overuse a certain phrase or character motion (such as shrugging or sighing frequently)

2. Consider the overall pacing of the story. Expert editor Maria D'Marco says, "Pacing ties to transitions, as well as to types of scenes, and can keep readers breathless and excited, bored to tears, or precariously tormented between the two. It is the engagement factor that determines the rate at which your story is absorbed." Be sure to double-check your pacing revisions to confirm you didn’t introduce any new contradictions.

3. Flesh out your characters. Give them clearly defined arcs. Readers want characters who change and, most of all, grow from their mistakes. After all, no character is perfect, and they shouldn't be portrayed as "flaw-less" either. Ask yourself these questions: what are the story's highest and lowest moments? How will these moments change your character’s standpoint?

Make sure to add in character quirks that make each of your characters their own person. How to do that, you might ask? Give them a set of behaviours no other character uses. Maybe it's how they speak, the way they walk, a habit they have (whether that's good or bad), Essentially, tie each character's quirks into the rest of their personality. Will the quirks influence the way readers see them? Another thing that really helps in the revising process: fill out character profiles! This will better help you develop your characters.

4. Watch out for bad habits when revising. This is the stage where you give the story the last polish before passing it onto a beta reader or editor for feedback. Keep in mind to get your book as strong as possible yourself before you ask for help. Wanna know why? Well, if you don't, you might be paying for advice for things you could've probably fixed on your own.

In the words of D’Marco, remember: “This revision isn't meant to dilute your style, your special voice, or any other uniqueness in your writing. Instead, you will be checking for unimaginative sentence starts, obtuse or convoluted sentence structures, and repetitive phrases or words or use of character names, among other things. Identify when, where, and if these lame or aggravating writing habits appear in your story, and then re-write to strengthen your story.”


Okay, onto editing! Now, unlike revising where you have to make major changes to a document’s content, structure, and/or organization, editing involves making sentence-level changes. Here are some tips for doing just that:

1. Don’t try to fix everything at the same time. Think of an artist. They don't start with the tiniest details—they sketch out the more prominent aspects with a solid base (or sketch, if you will), and they basically capture the bigger picture. When self-editing your book, you'll be doing multiple rounds of editing, but don't worry about making each sentence perfect before moving on.

2. Understand that you might have to cut out some of your favourite scenes. Writers often hear the saying “kill your darlings,” but you shouldn't stress about it. If you do have to cut out any important scenes, you can always file it away in case you want to use them later. And remember: if you wrote something amazing, you can do the same again—so don’t sweat it.

3. Consider these questions about your plot:

  • Is the plot engaging and believable?

  • Do plot points flow logically and maintain momentum?

  • Are all major and minor narrative threads tied up by the ending?

  • Do the plot twists make sense? Are there any plot holes in the story?

  • Does the plot match the conventions of your genre?

4. Consider these questions about your characters:

  • Do the main characters have clear strengths and weaknesses?

  • What are the protagonist and antagonist's motivations?

  • Do characters act consistently in each scene?

  • How do the secondary characters serve the story?

  • Chart each main character's overall arc. Is every arc clear and compelling?

5. Conflict is at the heart of every story. Bring them to the foreground, and make sure that your central conflicts, whatever they are, build toward the climax. Not only will this assure your readers that your story is going somewhere, but it will also grow your stakes and allow your big finish to have an even greater impact. Consider these questions about your conflict:

  • Are your story's themes developed through conflict?

  • Is the central conflict intriguing? Is it resolved (at least for the time being) when the story ends?

  • Does this conflict escalate gradually over the course of the book?

  • What dramatic question(s) arise, and are they answered by the end?

  • What sacrifice is your protagonist faced with making at the climax?

6. Consider these questions about your scenes:

  • Does the opening scene hook readers? Does it begin in the right place?

  • Are there enough scenes, and does each one serve a purpose?

  • Are scenes paced well and are your chapter lengths appropriate?

  • Is each scene clearly oriented in time and place?

  • Are scene and chapter transitions smooth?

7. Fine-tune your prose with a copy edit. Here are some tips for copy editing your writing:

~ Replace passive voice with active voice where appropriate.

❌ The ball was kicked.

✅ She kicked the ball.

~ Limit the use of adverbs in your dialogue tags. (Show, don’t tell!)

❌ “Why did you eat my turkey sandwich?” said Harry angrily.

✅ Harry upended the table. “Why did you eat my turkey sandwich?”

~ Replace weak verbs and adverbs with stronger verbs.

❌ Leonard ran quickly to school.

✅ Leonard sprinted to school.

~ Check that all of your dialogue is formatted correctly.

❌ “I love you.” Said Pam.

✅ “I love you,” said Pam.


After all that, you're probably wondering what the main distinctions are between both revising and editing. They both sound similar, don't they? Well...

1. When a writer revises, he or she will usually...

  • write and rewrite entire sections of the paper for the purpose of improving the content

  • focus on the paper’s controlling ideas and the cohesion of ideas

  • add, change, and/or delete large sections of the paper

2. You are revising if you are...

  • modifying your controlling ideas, especially your thesis or central argument

  • adding new information

  • moving around paragraphs or parts of paragraphs

  • removing unnecessary information

  • changing your paper’s focus

3. When a writer edits, he or she will usually...

  • edit only after the paper has undergone major content and structural changes

  • focus primarily on sentence-level issues like sentence variety and word choice

  • rearrange the sentence order of a particular paragraph or the word order of a particular sentence

4. You are editing if you are...

  • deleting unnecessary words

  • rearranging words in sentences

  • substituting less precise or effective words with more precise and effective ones


Alright, that's all for now! If you enjoyed this post, make sure to give it a like and leave a comment if you want to see more posts like this! Also, by clicking the button at the top right corner, you'd be supporting my blog so so much! Stay tuned for next week's post, and until then, stay safe and healthy xx

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