Mastering Rewrites

EDIT, REWRITE UNTIL YOU GET IT RIGHT!

Rewrite and edit until you perfect it. Ask any serious writer what their favorite part of writing is and you’ll likely find it’s the rewrite and polishing phase. On the other hand, ask a hack writer what part of writing they like and they’ll usually say it’s anything but rewriting.

Most beginning writers overuse adjectives and adverbs thinking that the more modifiers they pile on the better the mental image. The exact opposite is true. Mark Twain supposedly said, “If you ever come across an adjective, shoot it.” Of course he wasn’t serious about doing away with all adjectives, but he was cautioning new writers to shy away from modifiers unless absolutely necessary.

How many dark, cloudy, stormy, moonless nights does one have to see to carry that image for a lifetime? Lead the reader gently, but let him use his imagination. How would it sound to write – “That night, the wind shook the windows and I watched a strobe light display on the walls as flashes of lightning answered the bursts of thunder”? Notice how multiple prepositional phrases weaken the sentence, not to speak of the fact that you can write the same thing adequately with “That night, thunder shook the windows.” It ‘s safe to assume the reader has lain in bed and listened to a thunderstorm or two, so you don’t need much description.

Go through your manuscript word by word and find multiple adjectives. A good rule of thumb is to not use more than one modifier.

For more great writing tips, go to http://www.creativewritinginstitute.com. Happy day!

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4 thoughts on “Mastering Rewrites

  1. I’m not a huge rewriting fan either, but every good writer says that’s the most important part of writing. I’m learning what’s required in the rewriting. Hopefully it will get easier as I get better at it! 🙂

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    1. Very good point. Like anything else, practice makes perfect. A lot of how many times you edit goes back to the kind of person you are. Perfectionists drive themselves nuts with over-editing. (cuckoo… cuckoo)

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  2. hmmm, I have to say, I do not particularly like the rewrite phase of writing, but I do it because it is necessary. I find the errors, the missing words and the parts that don’t flow or make sense during the rewrite phase and I am satisfied that my final product is better because of the rewrite, but it is definitely not my favorite part. I like the original creation phase, getting the story out of my head and onto the paper. Then I go in and take care of business, clean it up, polish it and make it ready for publication. Adjectives can be a problem and one way to get around them is to remember to SHOW not TELL the reader what you are talking about. I like your examples of alternatives to ‘dark, stormy night.’ They paint a much more vivid picture. 🙂

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    1. Hi Janie – Every part is exciting, isn’t it? I thought a lot about what you said. I enjoy the creative process on some things more than on others but the rewrites are what make me feel one step closer to being DONE! Yeah!

      I counted my short story edits one time, but stopped when I got to 53. [Truth] But I’ve improved. Now I refuse to edit more than 52 times!

      So… here’s a question for everybody… what is your record for editing one story or article?

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