My intention when starting this blog was to write at least three posts a week. “How hard could that be?” I asked myself. Since I write a little something every day, I thought it’d be a snap to post some thoughts or experiences about the writing life. It’s not turning out that way so far, and there’s only one reason for it: I’ve been so busy writing and rewriting a story that it hasn’t left time for blog stuff. Editing is hard work!
I was fortunate enough to hear author David Coe speak about the editing process at the October SCWW (South Carolina Writers Workshop) Conference, and this morning I looked over my notes. When writing, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether your work is any good or not because you’re so close to it. Stepping away from your writing for a while (like I’m doing now) is a good recommendation, but when you’re actually in the rereading and reviewing stage, there are other things you can try. Here are three of Coe’s recommendations:
• Role play. Coe puts himself into someone else’s shoes, someone like an editor or a friend, and sees things like they do. I thought that was a great idea and one that I already practice. I often find myself thinking, “Ann would catch that,” or, “Doug would say something about those gerunds.”
• Go back and read an older piece that you’ve written and look for all your warts or bad habits as a writer. Then go back and read some of your new stuff. This practice will not only help you see how you’ve developed, but it will also show whether you’re still doing some of the same things. I have a tendency to be a bit wordy (would you have guessed that?), and I’m working on that. It’s hard. Last week, two members of my writing group suggested that I scratch out the entire first sentence of a piece they were critiquing. And you know what? They were right.
• Step into role of professional editor and act like you’re him or her. Just like an editor would do, tell yourself the good things about your work and then be honest in spotting all the things you need to do to get the manuscript where it needs to be.
Confession: It was a breeze to write the story I mentioned in the first paragraph. Descriptive words, smooth sentences, and cohesive paragraphs easily flowed from my mind to the computer keyboard and showed up on the screen. But then, I read through the finished product and saw a dozen errors and a misspelled word or two. The sentence structure sounded stilted, and the little bit of dialogue sounded unnatural. So I edited and tweaked and then edited and tweaked some more. Now it’s time to take Coe’s suggestions and review the story one more time.
Who am I kidding? Until the midnight hour when the work is due, I’ll be reworking the work. What about you? Do you usually get the story/article/paragraph right the first time, or do you continue reviewing and editing?