Monday, March 16, 2015

Make Time for Rewriting

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

The best way for me to write well is to write essays, columns, and posts as quickly as possible. Get down every idea. Capture the energy I feel about the topics on the page. I don’t worry about punctuation, perfection, or organization; I just write. This is the exhilarating part. Be fearless! It’s fun!

If I’ve interviewed someone for an article, I also write the first draft quickly as I weave the person’s quotes into my prose.

When I run out of thoughts while writing, I stare at the ceiling or out the window. If no new thoughts come to mind, I start to rewrite.

          At this point, rewriting means I read my first sentence looking for unnecessary words and awkward phrases then omit or improve them. I move on to the next sentence and then the next until a new thought comes to me. Then I go back to writing.

I repeat this process until I reach my daily goal for long projects or “complete” the essay, article, column, or post by getting all my thoughts down.

But no piece is finished until I rewrite it.

Since I’m also an editor, I love this process. However, I wait at least a day, usually longer, before I focus on rewriting. Errors and awkwardness jump out at me when I work with fresh eyes.

Again, I reread my sentences omitting unnecessary words and rewriting or deleting phrases and sentences, but now I also look for clarity. I reorganize sentences and paragraphs as leads are often buried two, three, or more paragraphs into the piece.

Rewriting means letting go as well as improving what stays. I delete or save for another piece between a third and half of my work.

Then I concentrate on spelling, punctuation, and word choices. For ideas, I refer to The Synonym Finder by J. I. Rodale or the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus. (If interested in these books, see my post dated 6/9/2014).

Reading pieces aloud helps with rewriting, too. I’m often surprised when what reads well on the page doesn’t work when I listen to the words so I don’t skip this step.

Rewriting helps keep errors from living eternally in published pieces so it can be difficult to stop, but deadlines must be met. To submit the best work I can produce, I schedule in the time to put pieces aside then go back and rewrite them.

Be aware that rewriting takes more time than writing. I timed myself in a post dated 10/7/2013. Roughly, I spend one third of my time writing and two thirds rewriting. 

I’ve never regretted a minute of the time I spent rewriting. It not only elevates my writing, it’s the mark of a professional.

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