The Three Most Important Skills
All Writers Need to Learn:
Revising, Editing, & Rewriting
To begin with...
You’ve studied other authors’ novels and learned writing techniques. You know how to plot, develop characters, and write believable dialogue. You understand the difference between showing and telling and what purpose narration and exposition serve in a story. You’ve finished your book, and you’re elated—and with good reason. You’ve run a mental marathon, but you haven’t crossed the finish line. Not yet. Now, you must revise, edit, and rewrite, the hardest but most necessary part of the process. How do you proceed from here?
A good editor is hard to find...
Even if you find a competent editor, and can afford the cost, you still need your manuscript to be in the best condition possible before submitting to him or her. The most helpful editor is one who deals with content. The person can point out the long, boring sections in your book, as well as any plot inconsistencies. He or she will catch grammatical errors. In the long run, however—yes, this is still part of the mental marathon—it’s you who will have to do the hard work. You need to prepare yourself for the grueling task that lies ahead.
Over the years, I’ve read many books on writing, but one stands out from all the rest: Getting the Words Right: How to Revise, Edit, & Rewrite by Theodore A. Rees Cheney. Make no mistake: This is a technical book designed to improve your writing skills. It’s broken up into sections with examples of what to look for and how to fix problems that arise in everyone’s first drafts. It’s my Writing Bible, and I own two versions of the book.
REVISION BY REDUCTION
Takes you step by step through chapters, sections, paragraphs, scenes, dialogue, characters, and addresses redundancy, tautology, pleonasm, verbosity, prolixity, circumlocution, and repetition. What’s authorial intrusion? Do you use excess modifiers or idle, nonworking words? Provides exercises.
RETHINK AND REARRANGE
Addresses issues of tone, style, and coherence; sentence, paragraph, and chapter lengths; word order, misplaced modifiers, and de-emphasizers.
REVISE BY REWORDING
Explores the parts of speech, style, and diction, along with sentence structure (syntax). Discusses metaphors, similes, analogies, misspellings, and misuses.
Cheney’s book has been updated twice since 1984. I have the original publication and the most recent copy (2005). Regardless of which version you order, I can guarantee that you’ll improve your writing and editing skills. I’ve read the first book twice and the second book once. At long last, I think I’m “getting the hang of it.”
Getting the Words Right will be
the best writing class you’ve never taken!
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Happy writing & happy reading!