After The Critique: Hardcore Essay Revision

Alex Porter


Last time, we talked about the importance of getting your essay critiqued. Hopefully, you have taken that first step — but now, you may be wondering what to do now that your work is all marked up. The next step is revision — by which I don’t mean changing a word or two here and there or switching around some paragraphs. I mean heavy-duty, hardcore, brutal revision.


"If you don’t revise, then there was no point in getting your work critiqued," says an essay writer from Vancouver BC, working at essay writing service BuyEssayCanada. The critiquing-revision process will make your writing stronger; no matter how resistant to change you may be, you need to accept that no writer creates the perfect short story or novel in the first draft.


The days of typewriters and quills are thankfully over. Just because you’re revising doesn’t mean you have to lose all your previous essays. Keep all your drafts and mark all your revisions. Try out something new with one of your scenes, characters, or plotlines; think of it as walking a tightrope with a safety net. Feel free to dance around unharnessed without fear — those old words will be there when you get back.


Your peer critique hopefully provided you with some good feedback for places to start tinkering. Look at what your critics had to say and start playing around with ideas. Other things you can do to revise are:

  • Identify the weakest scene in the essay. (By weak, I mean one that serves no purpose to the advancement of the story or characters.) Cut it. Do it quickly, and it will hurt less. You may have other weak moments in the essay that can be revised and saved, but if you can recognize one part that does nothing to help the story, you don’t need it.
  • Try a completely new draft of the story told from another character’s point of view. This is obviously easier to do with a short story than with a novel, but even in a novel, you might find that writing some chapters in one POV and other chapters in someone else’s POV might benefit the essay. You will never know unless you try.
  • Change major details in the essay. The second draft of my most recent essay killed off the main character’s wife and daughter, whereas, in the first draft, only the wife was deceased. He revised it because he realized that the double loss would affect the main character more drastically than the wife’s death alone. It also eliminated issues I, the reader, had with the main character explaining his remarriage to his daughter. Find some big changes you can make and try them on for size.
  • Try a draft of your story where you completely delete all traces of some element of storytelling. Trash all the dialogue, or try telling the story without any description. In the end, you don’t have to stick with the entire draft as such, but you will find that you’ve probably rewritten a troubling scene so that it suddenly becomes effective. Sometimes as writers, we get so bogged down with words; take the minimalist approach and see what you come up with.
  • Replace narration with a scene. You may have a paragraph or two in which the narrator goes on and on about something: how she and her husband haven’t been getting along lately, how much she loves to go shopping and buy designer duds even when she’s broke, or how he feels so overworked lately and barely sees his family. Cut the narration and write a scene that shows the reader the same thought. Show her and her husband fighting. Show her going to Barney’s and getting her credit card declined. Show him at the office typing away like a drone while staring at the photograph of his wife and child on his desk. Do this revision wherever you find a long block of narration in the story.
  • Delete your flashbacks. You don’t have to lose them all, but you will need to scrutinize each flashback. If the flashback’s only purpose is to give background information or to characterize someone, then you don’t need it, no matter how funny or wonderful you think it is. If it doesn’t flesh out the story, then it needs to go. Nothing drags down fiction faster than an irrelevant flashback.

Again, don’t be afraid to rewrite your essays. It may look like a lot of extra work, but it will be worthwhile in the end. You will produce a more polished and more effective second draft — and if not, you can always go back to the original and try again.

What is the biggest, most painful revision of an essay you’ve ever done?

Alex Porter
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