Monday, April 5, 2010

The Cleaner: be your own editor

As writers, we get excited getting the first draft down. The adrenaline is pumping as our words and ideas are flowing. However, after we’ve accomplished the first step to writing our story, the hardest part follows. Editing! I’ve talked about editing in my previous posts but I have to reiterate that we can’t escape this exhausting process. We often feel disheartened with the first draft’s revision: fixing syntax and semantics, including or dismissing metaphors, adding and omitting things, and finally, checking punctuation and spelling. In other words, you have to clean up your work. I’ll share with you what I learned in one of my workshops about revising my own work:

1) Read your entire draft. This doesn’t mean you have to do it right after you’ve finished writing your draft. “Put it in a drawer,” as my mentor used to tell me. Give your eyes and your mind a break. You can come back to the story the day after, or a week later.
2) Determine what the problem is. Pay attention to your POV, your character’s development, dialogue, plot, and climax.
3) Make a modification chart. My mentor taught me to draw a chart where I divide it into scenes (almost like an outline) and place the protagonist and antagonist on each half of the page. This would give me a visual of where the story (climax) is going.
4) Rewrite. After you’ve cleaned up, rewrite the whole story. Don’t get the “attachment syndrome” as I call it. Let go of dialogues, words, similes, or anything that may not be moving your story forward. You wouldn’t stay in a bad relationship, right? You would want to move on with your life. So does your story!
5) Polish your prose. Pay attention to clichés, redundancies, weak verbs, and extra adjectives. My mentor always reminded me to use strong adjectives and verbs that would be more effective to the story.

So in the spirit of spring, let's get cleaning!

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