Reviewing the writing process

“What’s it like to write an article every week?” people sometimes ask.

“It makes the week fly by!” I usually respond.

All good writing starts with good ideas. And good ideas are birthed by other good ideas.

My college English professor, Darryl Tippens, was right: “You’ll never write a lot unless you read a lot.”

Put another way, all good readers aren’t good writers, but all good writers are good readers.

Oftentimes good ideas come to life as they’re dwelt upon. Hence, revising is paramount in the writing process.

I hated revising as a student. Proofreading felt like a waste of time. I now realize it makes or breaks a piece, and it has become a favorite part of my routine.

“Two words are not better than one,” Newberry Award winner Madeleine L’Engle said.

Especially if your throng doesn’t know what one of them means! Throng? It means audience.

William Zinsser, in his classic work On Writing Well, wrote:

“Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost…We all have an emotional equity in our first draft; we can’t believe that it wasn’t born perfect. But the odds are close to 100 per cent that it wasn’t.”

Getting an imperfect first draft down is half the battle. Fear of failure, fear of exposure, fear of apostrophes; the opposition is fierce.

Accept that your first draft will be crappy, Anne Lamott said, albeit in slightly smellier language.

In conquering the rough draft, no substitute exists for old-fashioned discipline.

“I only write when I feel like it,” Max Lucado told a writers’ conference once. “And I make sure I feel like it every morning at 9:00 a.m.”

“Write a page every day at the same place and time,” John Grisham told the New York Times in May. “Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.”

Grisham continued, “Early morning, lunch break, on the train, late at night — it doesn’t matter. Find the extra hour, go to the same place, shut the door. No exceptions, no excuses.”

But don’t keep the door shut forever. Try out your writing in other places.

Lucado suggests reading your writing to yourself, to a friend, out loud, in your bedroom, in your dining room, on your porch, etc. Hear how it sounds in different settings and before different audiences (a.k.a. throngs!).

Zinsser agrees, “Bear in mind, when you’re choosing your words and stringing them together, how they sound…Readers read with their eyes. But in fact they hear what they are reading far more than you realize.”

Then there’s the need for voice, which basically means being true to yourself.

“My commodity as a writer, whatever I’m writing about, is me,” wrote Zinsser. “And your commodity is you. Don’t alter your voice to fit your subject. Develop one voice that readers will recognize when they hear it on the page.”

Lamott also encourages personalization.

“You own everything that happened to you,” she wrote in Bird by Bird. “Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”


Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

 

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1 Response to “Reviewing the writing process”


  1. 1 jessestroup October 3, 2017 at 14:50

    Kevin, With this good article you touched on discipline, stepped on toes, and yes, made me laugh. This one is full of truth about writing. Thanks so much, son-in-law. Sincerely, Jesse Jesse Stroup Director of Spiritual Care

    JesseStrouplive@yahoo.com 6300 Harry Hines Blvd. BKB 101 Dallas, TX 75235 (888) 767-6363

    >


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