This blog post may end the idea of writing for some. Over the next few blogs, we get to the “grind it out” work. Before you complete a book project, you are sick of your own “baby.” Re-writing is what makes or breaks written communication!
Take heart – some of what I’ll describe here is difficult on your first writing project, but becomes second nature. Writing really is work! However, it is work that more of you need to be doing!
Writing begins with getting words on a page screen. You also now know this “first draft” is a long way from being a book. My books will go through multiple re-writes before the book is submitted to an editor for final work on the grammar. There are usually 12 re-writes.
Re-write makes or breaks the material. So what is the objective of all this re-writing. Here is what you are looking for in your re-write.
1. Eliminate unnecessary words in sentences. The use of unnecessary words is known as pleonasm. (Don’t you just love words!) Pleonasm is including words adding nothing to the message of the sentence. Words you should NEVER use in writing include: really, very, that (experiment with the word “that” by eliminating “that” from the sentence. If the sentence makes sense without “that” leave it out), just, then (explore using “and” instead of then, or see if two sentences might flow better), totally, completely, absolutely, literally, definitely, certainly, probably, actually, basically, virtually (each of these words adds no new information), start, begin, began, rather, quite, somewhat, somehow, said, replied, asked and other dialogue terms (when you have established the people who are speaking, let them speak without having to constantly identify the speaker. I confess this is not my strong suit.), down, up (as in, “I lifted him up.” “I lifted him” makes your point), wonder, ponder, think, thought, feel, felt, understand, (find a way to write this differently). You will likely come up with additional words you don’t need to use.
Practical application: During rewrite, use the “find and replace” feature to search for each word on the list above. You can “replace” with the same word highlighted. Go through the entire list of words you will potentially eliminate. Now, read the material. Consider eliminating the highlighted words. In some instances you will decide to restate the concept more clearly.
Dealing with eliminating words is not second nature to most writers; develop a list that becomes your “cheat” notes for doing the rewrite.
2. Eliminate unnecessary sentences in paragraphs. Unnecessary sentences may not be as simple as discovering unnecessary words. After a time, unnecessary words jump off the page at you – whether it is your writing or that of someone else, sentences require more thought. Here is what an unnecessary sentence looks like:
Unnecessary sentences may “over explain” the point you are making. Preachers tend to do this and can get away with while in the pulpit. It won’t work with written material. Get rid of sentences that over-explain.
An unnecessary sentence may also be a deviation or digression inserting unneeded information. Recall the lessons from your early writing classes; each paragraph is to have a single point.
The unnecessary sentence may be the making of a second paragraph, or the unnecessary sentence may be so disconnected as needing to disappear forever.
3. During the rewrites, you explore moving sentences, paragraphs and chapters around for the sake of capturing the reader’s attention, and for clarity or readability. An article in a national magazine may begin, “Our family arrived in xyz, MO on the 12th of July, 2004.” The sentence is correct. Most editors won’t suggest a change, but the opening sentence has no “pop.” For someone scanning the magazine looking for interesting articles – that article probably went in file 13. Moving things around may help create tension, passion and a sense of purpose. A re-write takes good information, moves it around making the content more interesting and readable.
4. In rewriting seek to replace a firecracker word with a dynamite word. One word can change the impact of a sentence. Vocabulary is the currency of a writer. Work to increase your vocabulary of usable words. As a writer, you need words – many words, great words, strong expressive words. When you write a first draft, you present an idea; in the re-writes you sharpen the idea. On-line dictionaries can help find the exact word you need. On occasion, I still use an old book, The Synonym Finder in search of a better word.
In the next two blog posts I’ll share some re-write observations from Daniel Koren a neighboring pastor and author, then some editorial thoughts based on Earnest Hemingway’s strategy for writing with clarity.
As always – any author enjoys people benefiting from their work. I’ve a number of books already in print – an omnibus of almost all my writing (18 books out of a total of 22 written, the others are either out of print or not under my control) is now available for a limited time at almost 50% off cover prices. This would be a great Christmas gift for your son, or daughter, or a son-in-law who is a developing minister. Not a bad option as a gift for yourself actually.
Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for this offer and for other options. If you have not signed up to receive my blog posts please do so using the popup.
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