I’m not a fan of the word revise when referring to changes a writer makes to a work prior to receiving the input of an editor. To revise a manuscript, in my opinion, is to take a completed work and make alterations for the purpose of publication—alterations which will hopefully improve the piece for the reading audience.
When I first start working on a piece, I start by drafting. At this stage, I get the story, the article, the blog post, the chapter, or the poem on paper or on the screen. Sometimes it takes only one draft to finish a piece. Sometimes that draft is almost exactly as it should be. Other times it takes several drafts before I’m satisfied that I’ve gotten everything down. By everything, I mean everything that makes the piece whole, not everything needed to make the piece ready for readers. I’m not finished drafting until I have whatever it takes to communicate to myself what this work is supposed to be down on paper.
I don’t revise my drafts. I craft them. First, I go over the macro of the last draft. Do I like the major elements? Or do I need to tweak them? Then, I go over the major chunks of text. This could be chapters, sub-headers, whatever. I try to determine whether they are understandable and appropriately paced, whether they try to communicate too much or too little. After that, I go paragraph by paragraph. Does it flow? Line by line. Does it say what I meant? Word by word. Did I choose the best words, or words that were just good enough?
I don’t revise my crafted manuscripts. I polish them. Generally, I do catch most grammatical and spelling mistakes in the crafting stage, because they affect flow, meaning, and word selection. However, I go over the manuscript at least once more looking for mistakes, reading like a reader, seeing the piece as it would be seen, reading it as it would be read.
Then, I submit. Or post it. Or whatever I do with it. If someone comes back to me and says, “Hey, this doesn’t work.” Then, I revise, or maybe I don’t. It depends—are they right?