Readers usually want high quality writing, which means that it’s both well-written and well-edited. But how do you accomplish both, so that your story comes through loud and clear?
Your Writer Side
Unless you’re intentionally writing to be boring, your words need to reach your reader’s minds and/or emotions. It needs to have a purpose—to educate, inspire, entertain, whatever.
Your writing needs to be strong and compelling. If it’s not, your readers won’t get hooked by your message. They won’t read further, and worse, they won’t recommend it to others. On the other hand, if readers like your writing, they’ll help sell your book, and will expectantly wait for your next one.
So, the first thing you need to understand is that when most people write, they do so on two levels: 1) a creative, unconscious level and 2) a critical, conscious level. It’s the first level that produces powerful words and images.
When you’re in your Writer mode, you need to shut down the Editor part of your mind. If you let it go to work too soon, you won’t get the most or the best out of your Writer side. What that means is don’t worry about things like spelling and grammar, flow, organization (unless you’ve created an outline), or any other editorial distractions.
There are many techniques for unlocking your creative unconscious, including brainstorming, mind-mapping, walking, listening to music, reading books not related to your topic, daydreaming, and so on.
The idea here is to let your thoughts free-flow, get them written down, and don’t let mechanical issues get in the way.
Your Editor Side
Okay, so you have all these wonderful thoughts and words on paper. But it reads like a bad roadmap or a bunch of random doodling. It’s now time to edit. Your writing needs to be clear and free of errors. If not, your readers will become confused or distracted, and you’ll lose them.
It’s now time for you to become your work’s first editor. Yes, it’s very valuable to have an outside editor, but you need to make a good first impression by not turning in something that looks like a scribbled grocery list. It’s been said that a book is like housework—no one notices when it’s done well, but they see your mistakes clearly.
The flaws in your book will distract any but the least mindful reader. Much of today’s writing is done using software, such as Microsoft Word®, that contain spelling and grammar checkers. Use them. There are other first-level editing methods you can employ. Print a copy of your work and read it with a red pencil in hand. Or read it aloud. Some people read their work backwards. That prevents missing errors by not actually reading the words on the page, but by “reading” thoughts you already have locked into your head—what you meant to write.
Read your work for flow. Read it for continuity. Read it, if you can, as if you knew nothing about the subject, which can be very challenging.
Keep in mind that editing supports strong writing; it does not create strong writing. Nothing could be much worse than a book filled with correctly written lifeless sentences. The best writing is first alive; it’s then refined to make it really clear.
Separating your two author roles is both challenging and difficult. Try to avoid writing a sentence, a paragraph, a page, or a chapter, and then editing it. Your Editor tends to interrupt your Writer, and your work often come out the worse for this practice. Far better to just be a storyteller (fiction or non-fiction), tell your story, then let your other half tell you how to make it better.
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