Sunday, October 6, 2013

Advice to writers . . . that I need to hear myself

Here is some advice about writing for publication.

1.  Phase one: Inspiration strikes . . . write like crazy.  Write everything.  Don't stop.  Don't edit.  Just let it flow . . . every idea that shows up.  Keep writing during this phase when there isn't real inspiration.  Write badly. Write your confusion.  Write your doubts about your writing, if need be.  Keep writing on your topic until it feels like you've said what needs saying.

2.  Phase two:  Stop writing and read what you've written several times.  Notice what is good, what is useful.  Notice when you repeat yourself without a clear purpose. (My first editor told me, wisely:  “When you repeat yourself and go on and on you insult the reader. Teachers may need to repeat themselves.  Good writers say it once . . . well.” )

3.  Phase three:  EDIT.  Editing means making it better.  Cut, cut, cut . . .  even favorite paragraphs if they are redundant or fuzzy.  Rewrite sentences that are awkward. Aim for the highest clarity and simplicity.  Don't try and show off your writing skills using jargon.   Check to see if you repeat a word within a paragraph or nearby.  Always vary word choice in proximity.  E.g.  "Normally we like to see the temperature within the normal range."  or  "When trying to relax, be sure to relax all of the muscles in your arm."   This kind of sloppy writing is often present in your first fast draft.  ALL writers do this.  But, they fix it in the editing phase.

4. Phase four:  Read what you've written as if you were a smart reader who doesn't know your topic

 5.  Phase five:  Edit some more. Rewrite. Make it clearer.  Get rid of anything that isn't directly to your purpose.  Be ruthless.  Add only if it is essential to the edit.

Most new writers probably never realize that more than half of writing is done in phases 2-5.  But what you may not know is that this work is often really satisfying and sometimes FUN!   You get to sit down at your computer to improve something that already exists.  You get to find a better word to say what you mean.  You get to throw out extra stuff that wastes peoples time.  You get to be a WRITER.