Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How extensively should you rewrite?

By Dennis Mellersh

One of the questions or dilemmas faced by all writers, whether beginners, who are studying how to write a book,  or experts, is: “How much should I rewrite or revise my first draft?”

Assuming that you write quickly and don’t revise along the way, your initial draft will have the liveliness and freshness of a first impression or the immediacy of “first thoughts” – it will have “life.”

It may also be overly loose, repetitive, redundant, ungrammatical, excessively wordy, or lacking in clarity.

Revising and rewriting should substantially reduce these negative attributes of your first draft.

But, some restraint is often needed in the revision and rewriting process.

With excessive revising and rewriting and “never being satisfied”, you run the risk of taking all the life and personality out of your writing.

A good piece of writing can be ruined by laboring over it endlessly.

It’s admirable to make your writing as good as possible, but remember that trying to make your writing “perfect” can also make it dead.

Tip: You should always keep each version of your drafts – you may want to “re-include” some material that you initially removed or changed in your zeal  "to make it better."

I remember taking a long time to write a feature piece, laboring over it at length, and then showed it to a colleague, for his opinion.

His response, after taking some time to review it was, "I can see what you're getting at, but I think the words are getting in the way of what you are trying to say."

In other words, my struggles ended up in the article being "overwritten" and ineffective in conveying my message.

Sometimes you just need to go with your instincts an resist the temptation to overly fine-tune your work.

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