Thursday, June 18, 2009

Improve Your Writing by Forgetting About It

You've just finished writing your book or article or poem or whathaveyou. You're ready to plunge into editing and rewriting.

But hold on a second. Unless you're on a tight deadline, it's probably best to set aside your recent writing project for a while. Why? So you can come to the words on the page with fresh eyes.

After you've written a piece, you're still too close to it. You still love every little phrase. You still like your odd use of a certain word. Maybe you even love those four semi-colons you used in once sentence. But given some time, you can come fresh to a piece of writing. You'll have some perspective. You might even be surprised how something you loved a month ago now sounds awkward to your reading ear.

For one thing, after some time and experience, you should be a better writer. Even if just a little. So that can help you look at something you wrote a while back and go, "Argh! That's awful! Here's how I'd fix this and that!" But it's too late if you've already sent it to an editor or worse, it's already been published.

It's true you could work on a piece of writing forever, so eventually you will have to say "enough is enough" and finish.

How much time should you wait after you've finished writing? Different writers will make different suggestions. That being said, the longer the project, the more time you should set it aside. Written a short story? Maybe set it aside for a week, at least a few days. A novel? Maybe wait a month.

It's easier said then done, but a little time can help your writing go a long way. The enemies here are impatience and a loss of excitement. All of us are usually excited while we're writing a particular piece, but that excitement can wane once we've finished that first draft. But it doesn't have to be that way. Remember, you want your writing to be better. It needs to be better. Especially if other people are going to see it.

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