Of all the lessons I learned in my college days — at least of the ones I’ll admit to in a public post — one of the most important was the value of rewriting. A first draft is just that — the first shot at getting everything organized on the paper (or onscreen). Rewriting gives you the opportunity to refine and improve what you’ve done.

Sometimes, people ask how many times they should rewrite something, and my answer is always the same: however many times it needs. That’s not a flip answer. At times, one rewrite is enough to make something work, while other words might need to be trimmed and polished a dozen times.

Many people assume that professional writers nail copy on the first try, but the pros I know actually spend more time rewriting than they do in developing first drafts. I see those first drafts as a way to get rough thoughts on the page in a barely organized fashion. The real magic comes in knitting those rough thoughts together into something cohesive and communicative.

There does come a point when the returns of rewriting begin to diminish, and that’s usually time to stop. That said, I’ve yet to find a piece of copy that I couldn’t improve with just one more rewrite.