Monday, January 20, 2014

Writing Tip - Rewriting is as Important as Writing

You've written your heart out. You poured everything you had into your writing piece; whether it be an essay, a story, a novel, or a blog post. It's your greatest achievement.

It's also a draft. That's right. A draft. Not complete.

What do I mean, you ask? It needs to sit and rest for a bit before you take another look at it and edit it.

"Oh No!" You exclaim, it's perfect as it is. You know it is.

Uh Huh. Well, let me give you a little hint. Every writer needs their work proofread. And, for the record, nothing is ever "perfect."

The great writer, John Irving said, "Revision is the soul of editing and, as a novelist, rewriting is three-quarters of my life."

Scott Adams said this, "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."

We all make mistakes, even without knowing it. Especially now with auto-correct on our word processors and phones and tablets. How many times have you sent a message to say, OOPS! and have to resend with an apology? I know I have.

Even with this blog post, I'll have to let it sit, then re-read it and edit it. And, God willing, it will go out into the Internet world without any mistakes.

So, how do you go about proofreading your own work?

Everyone has a tip for it. I'll give you mine. You can take it for what it's worth, read other tips, and do what works best for you. That's my tip. Use whatever technique works best for you.

First, try not to edit while you are actually writing the draft. It can get confusing and cause you to slow your creative process.

Take a break from the first draft to your first proofread. How long? Well, that depends, I guess. If you have something else to work on, do so while you take a break from your draft piece. Or, do something else to take your mind off it. For some people they need a week or more. Even months before they can be fully ready to re-read their draft. I suppose it depends on the length of the draft as well. A short piece doesn't require as long a break as a novel length draft.

When you start your proofread change your mindset. You are no longer "author" you are "editor".  Be careful to keep that in mind. You want to be able to look at this draft with a new set of eyes and a clear mind ready to edit it. So, if you still don't have enough distance from it as author, set it aside and wait some more.

Here is a list of what some people have done to edit their work:

1. Print the draft on different color paper.
2. Print using a different font.

Do not attempt to edit on the computer screen. It can foul up your mind and put you back in creative mode.

3. If you wrote your draft in your office, edit it some place else.
4. If you wrote your draft while lounging on your sofa, edit it in a different physical position, like sitting at your desk.
5. Your first read should be quick. No notes. Then start more slowly, with an overall feeling from the quick read.
6. Begin your critique and read it as if your friend wrote it. Don't try to fix anything. Just make notes.
7. Re-read again, at a different time of day when you are in a different mood.
8. Read it aloud at least once, especially if you have written dialogue.
9. If it's a longer novel length piece, you might want to create an outline from what you are reading. Be brief, you don't have to write a complete chapter by chapter analysis.
10. Get feedback from others. They must be an objective reader.  Listen to their comments or read their notes but don't be offended from anything they've said or written. You don't always have to agree with everything, but be open enough to accept each note. The person was nice enough to read your work, be nice enough to read their comments, without censure.
11. Once you've had others read and you've read and taken notes, organize all of your thoughts and notes in the order of your draft.
12. Start big and work your way down. Big changes like to plot or such, can make more of an impact to your work than say a confusing phrase or spelling error.
13. If you get stuck on your re-write, move on. Don't let anything stop you from completing your first re-write.

Stop. Rinse. Repeat. - If necessary.

14. Cut anything that is a duplicate or irrelevant. Be ruthless. You are editor now. Not author.

Remember, it's never going to be PERFECT in your mind, so know when to stop. Always track your changes so that if you've gone too far in your edits, you can go back a version.

15. As a final tip, I would say, read your draft backwards from the last word to the first. It's always a good way to catch any hidden technical errors.

Writing Resource: Your Writing Coach by Jurgen Wolff

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