Injured? Still Time for Inspiration and Inscribing
Less than Ideal Conditions
I'm at my computer with my leg propped up on top of the tower, sitting on two pillows.
I lost a battle with a car bumper and suffered a mild concussion and a torn muscle in my rear and thigh.
I am several shades of purple and in some pain. That didn't stop me from being where I'm supposed to be though. My muse expects me to be ready, willing and well, able. Does she care that I'm not up to par? Heck, no, she's okay.
So I don't seem able? Well, I'll just rely on the Meatloaf concept here, "Two out of three ain't bad."
Apple and Orange Writers
Perhaps my perception of poets and song writers is too fanciful. I think they find inspiration in sometimes the most mundane things, like an injury.
Then they get to use several literary devices to make cohesive lines. There's:
• Rhyme Scheme/Rhyme
I like to think of poets and songwriters as apple writers. So many choices in how to present the words. Rather like an orchard of burgundy, red, yellow, green, tart, and sweet.
Or savory in a filling, spiced up with cinnamon, soothing as sauce - oh the list goes on.
Then there are writers like myself - what I call the orange writers. We get to write about facts, figures, and non-fiction. Even using alliteration, our writing seems faint in comparison, but it's our passion.
Do you edit your articles
Showing Up - The Biggest Battle
Over the last few days, it's been uncomfortable sitting. According to my doctor, sitting will only exacerbate the pain.
His solution was to lay down. Now, I don't know about other writers, but laying down for me just brings about contemplation, not necessarily productive inspiration.
But, even in my prone state, I could use a pen and paper. Armed with pen and paper, I thought about all the great writers who only had those as their means of putting thoughts and feelings to paper. I realized how spoiled we writers of today are.
We've got spell check, cut and paste and run it through Grammarly or something similar. With a computer check, we don't have to see all those long red lines that in editing means - leave it out. I like Kurt Vonnegut's take on that subject, " If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out."
Laying there, with circles, scratched out passages, arrows and other marks indicating that I needed to make changes to the hand-written article was discouraging, but necessary.
Wearing the Editor Hat
I think of myself as a writer who is free to put down anything that comes to mind. I then have to switch hats and self-edit.
There's a dark side to that task as science fiction writer, Eric T. Benoit points out, “Self-editing is the path to the dark side. Self-editing leads to self-delusion, self-delusion leads to missed mistakes, missed mistakes lead to bad reviews. Bad reviews are the tools of the dark side.”
Too many writers rely on their quick wit, ability to research facts, and string words together to get by. Each of those components makes for a good article, but without the structural basis, the finished piece looks unprofessional. So, what are the biggest mistakes people make in their rush to publish?
There is a simplicity to good writing; it gets to the point. One intention of the writer is to have someone read the words. But today, there are over 2,000,000 article written, daily.
That is a lot of competition for a reader's time. Unless the words are cohesive, interesting and valuable, readers will go elsewhere.
One of the most common mistakes that writers make is writing too much. “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” ― Dr. Seuss
If our writing is a chore for readers, they will not stay with us. So it doesn't matter if our end sentence is a killer if no one gets to it. So we have to think of the value of the words, not the number.
“Anyone and everyone taking a writing class knows that the secret of good writing is to cut it back, pare it down, winnow, chop, hack, prune, and trim, remove every superfluous word, compress, compress, compress... ― Nick Hornby, The Polysyllabic Spree
When we are objective about our writing, in an edit we find the superfluous - all those extra, somewhat interesting, excessively descriptive passages that bog down our pieces. In an edit, they have to go. Period.
Writers suffer from "I know what I meant to write syndrome." No, you won't find it in a Physician's Desk Reference, but it's real.
If, is, and it are all legitimate words, however, they may not be the right word for the context of the article. Without careful editing, these words, along with homonyms, homographs and homophones will get by.
Jarod Kintz divides the world of writers into two distinct types, “there are two typos of people in this world: those who can edit and those who can’t” . While this is a comical explanation about editing, it reinforces the point, that we read what makes sense.
The discerning reader doesn't want to make sense of our writing, they expect us to do that before we publish it.
Confident punctuation is the correct way to convey our meaning to our readers.
We all use punctuation in our speech as Russell Baker points out, “When speaking aloud, you punctuate constantly — with body language. Your listener hears commas, dashes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks as you shout, whisper, pause, wave your arms, roll your eyes, wrinkle your brow.
In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear the way you want to be heard.”
We want to make sense to our readers, and punctuation contributes to that understanding. Without correct punctuation, we end up sending the wrong message.
I like Lynne Truss' accurate examples, whether it's a panda teaching me, or remembering that punctuation controls the reading. It shows the reader how to interpret the words and gives them meaning.
Without correct punctuation, we can get confused about the direction of the sentences, so "...punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language: they tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour, and stop.” ― Lynne Truss
Editing for Beginners and We're All Beginners
When it comes to editing, we are all beginners. We stay beginners. We take the time to study our writing like a beginner - with interest and deliberately.
If we don't approach each article from that perspective, we can create the illusion that we wrote it so well, it doesn't need more than a cursory glance.
So, what are some basic editing tasks that will guarantee a better-finished product?
Justin Alcala makes an excellent point that, “A good editor can make a respectable writer remarkable, just like a good parent helps a child become amazing.”
Approach editing as the icing on the cake, with a goal to make it as refined and presentable as possible.
And, if you happen to be stuck in bed for a few days, write and edit by hand.
There's lessons in that exercise as well, and if you eat cake, don't worry about the crumbs. I didn't.
© 2015 Marilyn L Davis