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Successful rewriting: Editor's Notes #396
July 26, 2023

More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting.
I wouldn't say I have a talent that's special.
It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina.

—John Irving

In this issue:

1. Successful rewriting
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1.Successful rewriting
In a sense, finishing your first draft opens the door to the real work of writing, that of rewriting. Unhappily, many shy away from rewriting because the task appears overwhelming and because there is a dearth of suggestions about how to proceed.

One way is to approach your rewriting with a variety of focuses. Using this technique, the writer looks for things to improve, focusing on one aspect of the writing at a time. This means multiple passes through the text, which, in itself is a good thing. The writer knows ahead of time that this is going to be a long journey, and that each topic will get its own time under the microscope. What follows is one list of things a writer might choose to focus on. (The first two items are for fiction writers.)
  • Focus on the plot. Is there enough tension? Is the problem worthy of the reader’s time and attention? Where are the turning points? What is the rhythm of the rise and fall? Does the flow of events make sense?
  • Focus on the characters. Do at least one pass that focuses on each major character. Read everything related to that character looking for interest, consistency, and growth. Then move on to another character making the same examination. Feel free to eliminate any character who does not need to be in the story.
  • Focus on pacing. Are there places your attention drifts? Figure out why.
  • Focus on factchecking. Is there anything you are not 100% sure about? This is the time to research facts important and incidental.
  • Focus on your personal troublesome writing habits. Here are a few common ones: not enough variety in sentence structure; ambiguous pronouns; overuse of phrases or words; too many modifiers; misuse of passive sentences; underrepresentation of some of the senses.

    Don’t know what your most troublesome habits are? That’s a massive benefit of the Writer’s Helper educative edit. That’s what you get in the sample edit, and even an edit of a 500-word sample can unearth a lifetime’s worth of successful rewriting opportunities.

Do what you will with the list. Add to it; subtract from it; rearrange it. I encourage you to consider it as a guide to the complex task of rewriting.

2.Tickled my funny bone
What did the surgeon say to the patient who insisted on closing up her own incision?
Suture self.

3. Interesting Web site
Here are tips from other professionals on the topic of rewriting.

4. Writing prompt
The John Irving quote that opens this issue offers stamina as an important ingredient in the life of a writer. Many endeavours call for stamina. Write a piece about a situation where someone exhibits stamina. How does the stamina change the person who has it? I would love to see what you come up with.

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