Tighten Your Prose–with Laughter

The new writer should strive to get word count. Write with abandon, shoot your wad, write crap, junk it through. Newbies are usually astounded when I say this. Isn’t it more important to write good, even great prose? Not now, I say. First you get it down and THEN you fix it up.
Writing Tip for Today: Some writers hate revising. They love the “write your heart out” part, but cringe at the long hard hours of trimming, sculpting and whacking that comes with rewriting. What’s a good revision strategy?

  • Prepare to revise in layers. You likely can’t fix all that’s necessary in one writing session, so why try? Author Sol Stein (Stein on Writing) recommends revising as if you are peeling away the layers of an onion.
  • Start big. I don’t want to do more work than necessary, so I always begin with structure. If you aren’t sure about your work’s story line or structure, find a good critique group or partner or hire an editor.
  • Be sure your work has cooled off. Begin your revising too soon (when your prose is hot off the press) and you are less likely to be objective, especially when it comes to cutting material. Remember to “kill your darlings,” but this is easier if you allow your work to gestate.
  • Start where you are. If you and/or your crit partner(s) don’t see structural flaws, or can’t hire an editor for that BIG PICTURE (theme, scenes, tension, pacing, etc), then start with what you do have. Get a copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Chop all your “ly” words, switch limp “to be” verbs and “ings” to active verbs and spruce up your dialogue.
  • Lighten up. Finally and not least, ask yourself if you’re taking yourself too seriously. Are you expecting yourself to be a skillful writer when you’re still in the first stages of apprenticeship? Do you think nobody else is going through your writerly growing pains? All writers get rejected, are frustrated on occasion, and feel pressured to write better or sell more. I’ve been trying to write romance which isn’t my strongest area, and I was uptight about it until I watched these videos on Youtube. I got a laugh and hope you will too. After the first one, there’s number two, three and four. For best results, view in order. And laugh!

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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