Self-Editing Your WritingWritten by Mary Anne Hahn
Much of what I do at my "day job" involves editing what others have written. Eliminating typos, repairing damaged grammar, replacing missing or misused punctuation--I relish editing, in a roll-up-my- shirtsleeves and rub-my-hands-together sort of way.
Often I get to transform a garbled attempt to communicate into something that's clear, concise and, well, readable. Change a word here, slice a few there, and I can add pizzazz to something that started out flat and lifeless. I like to think of myself as a highly skilled word surgeon, deftly able to remove extraneous verbiage with my scalpel--er, pen--and often performing complete paragraph transplants with total success.
That is, until it comes to performing surgery on my own writing. Then I frequently feel like a word surgeon with fake credentials.
There are times when I simply cannot see how even one of my golden words could be improved, much less removed. How dare editors impose restrictive word limits? If I'd thought that any words weren't necessary, I wouldn't have written them in first place, right? Maybe, for me, editors will make an exception. Once they read my incredibly crafted piece, they'll bend their own rules, run it as written, even thank me for ignoring their guidelines...
Or, more likely, they won't run piece at all. If they do, they'll whittle it down to size themselves, and who knows what damage they'll cause? Not all editors can call themselves word surgeons, you know. Some treat our writing with all delicacy of a demolition crew clearing way for a new super highway.
So if we want to keep what we've written intact and adhere to editorial guidelines at same time, we need to self-edit. But how can we objectively view anything that we've subjectively written? How do we unemotionally apply our editor's scalpel to work that we poured our hearts into?
I believe that first step in self-editing is to leave what you've written alone for a while, to detach yourself from it.
Recently, I wrote an essay specifically for "My Inspiration" section of National Association of Women Writers' newsletter, "NAWW Weekly." In its original version, my article weighed in at a porky 900-plus words. The editor's word limit? Six hundred, maximum.
Eliminate over 300 words? Where? Squelching my first impulse to submit it in its entirety, and my second impulse not to submit it at all, I let essay sit for several days. When I returned to it, I immediately found several wordy phrases that I could painlessly delete. Rewriting other sentences from passive to active voice reduced word count even further (while grammar sites and books deal with passive/active voice at length, there's a nice summary here: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/cws/wworkshop/grammar/active.htm).
THE WORLD OF A WRITERWritten by Arleen M. Kaptur
Writing is compared to almost every other activity. Some say its like trekking through a jungle of wild publishers and editors. Others claim its very similar to climbing up a mountain of rejection and hoping you donít fall into despair. Then thereís opinion that all authors are driven, compulsive, and very uncooperative. Now, in all honesty, none of us are even closely related to any of stereo-types that some have of writers.
In reality, we are just ordinary people who have been given a talent to use written word to reach others, entertain, educate and persuade. Many times we do have passion for what we are doing, schedules and rejections do get you down, and discipline is always a problem. If there were no books, articles, news items, or other related writing, people would still be drawing stick figures on cave walls and hoping for best. Man has evolved into an intelligent, caring, and curious being who enjoys reading about remote places, stories that he/she can related to, and fact sheets on subjects that range from A to Z. People love to read and writers love to write what they read. When you put your words on paper, you are stepping into literary world and hoping for best. You have a deep feeling that you have something to say and that world would be better off if you share it. You definitely want to reach out and touch others with your tales, your knowledge, research, or ability to put into words what others are thinking and doing.
Writers have an uncanny ability to put faces on their characters and words in their mouths. We give them new worlds to explore and live in. There are challenges that affect them and solutions that help them. Books can take you through someoneís entire life or just into one day. They can keep you on edge of your seat, or help you make an important decision. Writing is not for everyone but reading is. Even writers need to read everything they can to expand their interests, help them achieve new levels of understanding, and assist them into tapping into lives they never understood before.
Writing is a blessing and a curse. We can help others grow and relate. Through what we write we can give them knowledge, information, inspiration and insight. However, writing can cause you sleepless nights and daytime nightmares. You worry about your finished product and you languish over getting it to its final stages. There are rewrites, and there are rewrites that rewrite over rewrites. Your mind is racing through possibilities and circumstances. People fascinate you, nature intrigues you, and everything around you is alive and vivid. Wherever you go, you see stories, and your thoughts take you million of miles away, or sometimes just down road.