The writing process – Write more to write less

What a title! What does that mean? It’s simple really: A writer must write a lot to then get the most out of a few words.

Still confused? Ok, let me explain what I learnt about the importance of rereading and rewriting. Editing is no joke.

When I write, and I’m sure it’s the same for others, the words tend to be a stream of conscience that just flow out of my mind and onto the page. The idea is in my head and it needs to get out as fast as I can type or handle a pen.

As amazing as it feels, it also has some major flaws which you will only notice when you stop and look at what you have written. First of all, there will be typos. A quick spell check should help but you’d be surprised what can still slip through the cracks.

Personal anecdote: I spent half a year learning how to use InDesign to lay out my book chapters. When I finally felt satisfied and exported a PDF file for the printers, my heart skipped a beat when I spotted a couple (Thankfully only a couple!) of random typos. To be more specific, a double letter at the start of a word e.g. bbanana, and a goddamn paragraph break in the middle of a paragraph!

How my eyes and spell check didn’t spot these in the endless proof-reading I had done prior to printing I will never know. The mind glitches sometimes. This is just an example of how important proof-reading and editing is. Perhaps more so than the actual writing. Or maybe not..?

Rewinding a couple of paragraphs, my writing process is often a flow state where words jumps from my mind to the screen or page. Only on rereading my expulsion of thought do I see that there are way too many repetitions or empty words.

It’s hard to give a clear example here because I am trying to do the exact opposite and be as clear and concise as possible. I’m pretty sure Stephen King talks about this in his famous book – which I highly recommend! – On Writing. What sounds wonderful in your mind doesn’t always translate on the page.

A good writer can write a 100 words and chop it down to 50 without losing anything. There is a detail in that statement though: It’s always easier to get rid of words than it is to find them. So, releasing a wild train of thought onto your page is not necessarily a bad thing. But it will need some shaping up.

Personal anecdote: I studied philosophy at university which meant lots of reading and writing. I struggled to complete the final assignment of 10000 words on the subject of my choice but somehow I managed and passed. Yay! Our tutor would organise monthly meetings to check in on everyone and see how we were doing with out assignments. One of my course mates told the tutor he had already written 20ooo words and he wasn’t even half way through finishing! The tutor smiled and told him the assignment was for 10000 words give or take 10 percent. The poor student was going to need to cut to the chase. It was a shame we weren’t writing about the same philosophical problem because I would have easily taken a couple thousand words off his page if needed.

Back to today, and my writing experiences. It really is important that you reread what you have written to avoid repetition and unnecessary spiel. For example, right now I am writing a book about skateboard videos. Skateboarding is awesome and the videos are full of amazing stunts. As skateboarding evolves, so do the videos and more often than not there are ground-breaking moments featured.

Boom! Here is my dilemma: I can use the word ‘ground-breaking’ to describe the videos and the skateboarding once or twice, but not for every single chapter. You don’t notice the excessive use of an adjective or verb unless you take the time to reread something several times. So yeah, ‘ground-breaking’ gets replaced by ‘revolutionary’, ‘mind-melting’, ‘innovative’… A good thesaurus should always be within hand’s reach.

Now, look at that last sentence of the previous paragraph again.

As skateboarding evolves, so do the videos and more often than not there are ground-breaking moments featured.

It has a style and flow to it which is cool. It also has a redundant word nailed at the end. The word ‘featured’ does nothing for that sentence. You can remove it and the sentence still makes sense.

As skateboarding evolves, so do the videos and more often than not there are ground-breaking moments.

I mean, it’s pretty obvious that skateboard videos feature skateboarding. There’s no need to emphasize it.

This is a small example but there are plenty more out there – probably in this here blogpost too! The only way you are going to dig the waffle out of your work is by rereading and editing it. I have said that at least three times now. A brutalist in me would only state the obvious once but I think it needs repeating because it is an important lesson to learn when you write.

Till next time. Stay safe.

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