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The Problem with Editing

>The problem with editing is that you have to keep reading the same thing

over

and over

and over

and over again.

The writing just isn’t as much fun the 50 bizillionth time around.

Ah time…time is so grand. With time we can set one writing project aside, move on to the next one, and come back to the last one after some time has passed. Then we can see it again with fresh eyes, and be able to really look at it critically, cut out the rubbish, add in more flavor, and–with any luck–find that what we wrote was more brilliant than we remembered.

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Revising Happens After You’ve Finished Drafting

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I hear groans from my students at all stages of the writing process. But where I often get the most questions is when we get to revising. I already did that as I wrote, many will tell me. Now what do I do?
I remember vaguely how difficult it was to revise as you wrote back before there were computers. Type, type, type, pause, grab the white out, blow, check for dryness, type, type, type, repeat. Finish, read, mark changes with a pen, begin typing and correcting with white out again. For me, the process was a nightmare.
So much has changed with the advent of word processing software. Most of us now revise and edit constantly as we type. (I’ve done it dozens of times already, just in writing this article!) While this continuous reworking can be considered both a form of revising and editing—depending on the types of changes being made—unfortunately, this doesn’t make your work ready for publication.
Why not? Because odds are that the little changes you made as you wrote didn’t cover the scope of what needs to be done during the revising stage, including a consideration of your:
1.       Introduction: is what you have the best possible way to interest readers?
2.       Organization: have you placed elements in a logical fashion, broken down paragraphs so that each one focuses on only one topic, broken down large paragraphs to make it easy on readers, and included transitional words and phrases to help readers follow your train of thought?
3.       Details and Examples: have you provided enough to illustrate your point? Have you summarized general information and detailed important parts? Does each detail and example you’ve provided fit with your intended purpose for writing?
4.       Conclusion: is this the best possible way to draw the writing to a close? Have you left readers with enough closure that they will feel satisfied?
5.       Writing Style: Is the voice and tone appropriate for the audience?
Once you’ve evaluated each of these areas, you should get an idea of what changes need to be made. Revising will then mean adding, re-wording, and cutting, and every once in a while, it may mean starting over. But thanks again to our wonderful word processor, tossed away ideas are now easy to hang on to. And you never know when a tossed away idea may become useful in the future!

Drafting: Creating a Writing Purpose and Getting Words on Paper

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The main goal of prewriting is to generate ideas. The main goal of drafting is two-fold: to create a purpose for writing and to get words on paper. Why not just dive in? Plan first and you’ll find revising (the next step of the writing process) will be a whole lot easier.
To discover your writing purpose, consider:
1.       Who are my readers?
2.       What do I want them to know?
3.       Why do I want them to know this
These three questions will get at the heart of three essentials to writing: Audience, Focus, and Thesis, which together form your purpose for writing.
Audience: who you are writing for. Who you are addressing will determine what you say and how you say it.
Focus: what you want your readers to know. You should have figured out in prewriting. If you’re still struggling with it, it’s best to do a few more prewriting exercises before trying to move on.
Thesis: why you want readers to know this. Together with your focus, knowing your thesis will help you determine your purpose for writing. All good writing has a clear purpose.
Once you’ve created a purpose for writing, keep it in mind as you begin drafting.
This being said, don’t over-scrutinize your work as you write. Your main goal in creating a first draft is just to get words on paper. There will be plenty of time to make it good in the next stage of the writing process: revising.
Note: you may think that creating a writing purpose applies only to non-fiction. Not true! I’m not a literary agent, but I’d bet much of the fiction they reject stems from the writer not considering who, what, or why as they created their story.

Writing Basics: The Writing Process

One of the problems writers often run into is that they are impatient. I have to count myself in this category. I get an idea and I want it all to come together–right now. Unfortunately, most  of life doesn’t work like that. Writing certainly doesn’t.

We all have our moments of bliss where it all seems to flow so perfectly, but it often doesn’t happen that way, and even when it does, we often find later that what we originally thought was brilliant really is…not so much.

So how does good writing come about?

Writing is a craft, and like any craft, it requires time, practice, patience, and process.

What’s the process involved in creating good writing? Glad you asked. Here’s what it looks like:

  1. Prewriting
  2. Drafting
  3. Revising
  4. Peer review
  5. Editing
  6. Publication

Hopefully, this looks at least a little familiar–something you may have heard at some point in school, but weren’t really paying attention because you weren’t sure how it was going to affect your life yet. Now that you’re interested in writing, it’s a good process to review again.

I’ll write more on each of these topics over the next week. Check back to find out more.

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