You may think you have finished writing your short story, novel, or article but actually the work is only just beginning.
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Writing is mainly rewriting. And we’re never finished. Not even when we open the published book at a public event in order to read our words of wisdom out loud to our audience.
I often start my talks to school groups by getting them to guess how many times I edit my work before I consider it ready. Can you guess?
Well, it’s fourteen BUT two of the sections have sub-sections of seven parts each. Admittedly, I sometimes do more than one edit at a time. I’m always on the look out for anything I spot anyway. Just because I’m editing to see that characters stay in character doesn’t mean I won’t notice a typo.
You have to go from the big to the small. The first edit, for me then is “Does the plot work?” This is closely followed by “Is the resolution satisfying?” That is probably the most important bit of a story – and the most difficult to get right. There is gap between crisis point and resolution which keeps us all on the edge of our seats. A story, no matter how well written, can fall otherwise. It must be convincing. Not having that right, I find, is the number one fault in all stories and novels.
The last edit is a final read through, in a hard copy, ALOUD. Oh yes, even the 100,000 word novel must be read out loud. Only then do you see the typos, the repeated words and the punctuation marks. You need to check too that there is still an overall flow, now that you’ve tinkered with it at least thirteen times.
I was gratified recently to see a tremendous change within two weeks in a student’s work. He’d followed my advice about editing. The text had gone from red raw to polished and I think publishable in that time.
Another student mentioned a tutor who always told them to read out loud. I wonder who that was?
Most of writing is rewriting. Get used to it and also find therein another joy.