Friday, May 21, 2010

Writing Tip: Focus On One Thing At A Time

Photo by andreyutzu/StockXchange.com

I like rewriting almost as much as I like writing. Writing is my first pass at getting my thoughts down on paper. Rewriting is where I zero in on what I want to say--separating the written chaff from the wheat.
The challenge? To not get lost in all the things I'm trying to clear out of my article or chapter: passive verbs, -ly words, rabbit trails, grammar and punctuation errors, saggy middles--sounds like I'm writing a diet book!--repeated words, an overdose of adjectives.
You get the idea.
I used to try and tackle all the rewriting at one time. I'd grab a handful of different colored pens and mark pages up with abandon. Halfway through my edits, I'd be overwhelmed. But I'd push on because I wanted to get to the rewriting.
Here's my tip: Take it slow. Focus on one thing. One weakness. One often-repeated writing error. One of my critique partners pointed out that I liked to use the words "just" and "but". A lot. I always go through my manuscripts and hunt down and destroy those two words.
Try This: I'm reading Donald Maass' The Fire in Fiction. He suggests checking the first and last sentence in your chapters because:
"Does it matter what is the last line of your scene, or the first? Apparently, many authors do not think it does. Most last and first lines in maunscript scenes are quite forgettable. That's a shame. Like a handshake, an opening and closing line can create impressions and expectations. They can set a tone. They can signal where we're going, or what we've done, or serve any number of other useful story purposes."
If you're rewriting an article or chapter, focus on your first and last sentences--and only them. Ignore everything else you want to tweak. You'll get to all the other stuff later!