Writing Well Means Rewriting, Rewriting, Rewriting!

Writing Well Means Rewriting, Rewriting, Rewriting!

We’ve all been there: when you leave a writing assignment until the last minute, you have no choice but to pound it out and submit what you have approximately three seconds before the deadline. And maybe you end up getting a good grade or receiving positive feedback on what you wrote, but “the writing process” has earned its name for a reason: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Here at Zinkerz, our college counseling team is dedicated to teaching our students how to write their application materials and guiding them through revising their writing until it’s application ready. Writing is about the process just as much as the product, and the process doesn’t end after the first draft. So what is the key to writing well? Rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting!

The writing process isn’t supposed to be linear, and everyone’s approach is different, so you can explore and figure out what works best for you. Typically, the first couple steps of the writing process include brainstorming, maybe doing some research, free-writing, and drafting. These activities help you arrive at your first “complete” draft, where all your ideas and thoughts are at least on the page. But you shouldn’t stop there! The most important part of writing any piece, whether it’s your Common App essay, literary analysis paper, or newspaper article, is REWRITING.

Writing involves a lot of discovery, and it’s prevalent for your focus and purpose to evolve as you move through writing your piece—that’s where rewriting comes in. The writing process should heavily focus on rewriting, editing, and refining what you wrote the first time to ensure it’s cohesive and effectively communicates your ideas. As a result, you should spend more time rewriting and revising a portion of the writing process than the initial writing part.

Therefore, an essential component of rewriting is time. Even if you hypothetically finished your first complete draft of a piece with a couple of hours to spare before the deadline to do some editing, rewriting is all about having the time to let your thoughts and ideas circulate so that you can reach a point where you know exactly what you want to say and how to say it. The best thing you can do is take the writing and rewriting process one step at a time. Maybe you do some brainstorming and are inspired to free-write and get all your ideas down on paper while you’re in the flow of things. But once you finish that, give yourself a day, a couple of days, or a week, before coming back to it to begin rewriting, and the ideas will come. (I know that might sound a little weird, but trust me, it works.)

So now that you have your first complete draft in front of you, how do you go about rewriting? Depending on how organized your ideas were in your first draft, you could take several approaches as you rewrite. Again, the idea here is that you rewrite your piece more than once, so you can choose one method to focus on for your first rewrite and then a different one for your second rewrite, or do a combination, whatever you think your piece needs!

Here are a couple of suggestions for what you could focus a rewrite on:

  • Clarity of Focus/Argument→ Each paragraph should play an essential role in the main focus or argument of your piece, so it’s helpful to go through and reread each section and then summarize the main point of each one to make sure that the connection to your focus or argument is clear and present throughout the entire piece.
  • Structure and Organization→ For this rewrite, you could focus on how you structured your piece and how it best suits your focus or argument. Having a clear layout where your ideas effectively build on each other is essential for your reader to understand the structure of your piece. For this, you can go through and review the main points of each paragraph and try moving them around to see if a different order would help your ideas flow better.
  • Ask for Feedback→ It is always helpful to have another set of eyes look over your writing and offer feedback since sometimes sections that seem clear to you are unclear to your reader. You can utilize their feedback to guide your next rewrite. In the end, though, it’s your piece, so in the end, any changes are up to you!
  • Grammar and Sentence Structure→ This would be your final rewrite, where you check for typos and grammatical mistakes and ensure you have varied sentence structures and that everything makes sense. An excellent technique for this is to read your piece aloud so you can hear if anything sounds weird and make changes accordingly.

Each of these specific rewrites also allows you to set more specific and achievable goals for yourself. Sometimes the task of “completing the assignment” seems daunting and impossible. Still, if you focus each revision on a particular aspect, you will feel more successful and motivated to keep working on your writing. Additionally, with each successive draft, your writing gets closer and closer to what you will end up deciding is your “final” draft. A piece of writing is never “done”: you could keep working on new drafts forever. 

We eventually reach a point where we decide to be done, but each new draft will be different and better than the one that came before it. So ideally, you want to have enough time to keep working on it at your own pace, going through at least a few drafts until you feel you have arrived at the best version you can produce. You don’t want to become one of those writers who spend an entire decade eternally revising one piece of writing. Still, you mustn’t just turn in your first complete draft, but instead spend some time rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting to craft it into something you are genuinely proud of.

Please schedule a consultation with Zinkerz today for expert guidance from our college counseling team on how to rewrite your personal statement and other college application materials until they’re ready!

By Hayley McGowan

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