Monday, February 26, 2018

Write, Edit, Write, Edit (Repeat)

Olivetti typewriter

Good writing requires endless rewrites. (Ah, early overwriting.)

As we head into mid-semester for traditional classes, early drafts are due. This is a good time to think about editing and revising. Here is a guide with links to earlier posts that consider each idea more thoroughly:

Focus your editing with lists: It is nearly impossible to catch every error, inaccuracy or overwritten line in one reading, even if you slowly read your work aloud. Make a list of things you are usually good at and a list of your trouble areas. Your lists might include things like punctuation, organization, word choice, etc. Next, read your work with one issue in mind to focus your editing.

Read your work backwards: Start with the last sentence, then the next to last sentence and continue on like that. This approach will help you to focus on the individual sentences.

Verbs give muscle to your ideas: Always start by editing your verbs. Verbs must be as precise as possible if your work is going to move forward with any action or ideas.

Precision and concision: Cut extra words. Don't give the reader any room to misinterpret your work. In fact, make this your motto: Precision and concision.

Outline your work: Keep your outline by your side. Your outline is a "legal cheat sheet" because it reminds you where your paper has already been and where it is going. Since writing is a form of learning, your ideas might change as you continue to research, write and revise. Keep your outline up to date as you work on your piece.

Think about your energy: This can seem a little woo-woo, but it can help. Sometimes you feel creative and sometimes you feel more critical. Use your creative moments to write and your critical moments to edit.

Everyone needs an editor (or a peer editor): Here's an informative guest piece by Amy Bucklin on this topic (specifically for memoirists, but it really pertains to all writing.)

What else has or hasn't worked for you? I hope you'll share your thoughts in the Comments section below.


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