Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Start to Finish (Part 9 of 10)

Polish the article again.

You've edited once and you're finished.

I doubt it.

Keep editing and revising it until you know you can’t make it better. The first article I ever wrote for publication (and it was accepted the first time out), I wrote eighteen full drafts—and that was in the typewriter days. My first draft was slightly more than 900 words. I tend to be a skinny writer (physically and professionally), and each time I revised I added information and illustrations. When I finished, I had about 2,000 words, which was the right length for periodicals in the 1970s.

Look for redundancies. Most writers tend to overwrite and to say the same thing three or four times with different words. In print, you need to say something only once (unless you're using it as a literary device). Therefore, when you polish, aim for brief articles and short chapters.

Today, articles run 800 to 1800 words, and if you stay below 1200 words, you're probably about right. Chapters have also gotten shorter. Look at the novels of James Patterson for example. None of his chapters takes up more than five pages. Each is one scene, and a decade ago editors would have combined several of them into a single chapter. Patterson caters to the byte-size generation, and his books consistently hit the best-seller lists.

Your writing may not hit the best-seller lists, but you can make it the best writing you're capable of producing. And if it's your best, that's good enough—for now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Start to Finish (Part 8 of 10)

Ignore the manuscript for a time.

Many writers feel exhilarated or relieved when they write the final word and want to get it to the editor or agent. Resist that urge. Look at it again critically. Does this sentence make sense? Did I explain it thoroughly? Did I over-explain?

After I close the file on a manuscript and leave it a few days, perhaps as long as a month, I've always improved it. I use the absolute always because I mean without exception.

When I return to the material, I read it with new insight because the material has been churning in my unconscious mind. (I intentionally put the previous sentence in the passive voice. I could have written: My unconscious mind churned the material, but the emphasis was on the action (churning) and not on the actor (my mind). This is an extra tip.

Write to get the story written; rewrite to improve the quality.