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Thoughts on Writing and Editing [128]

Updated on March 28, 2012


UNLIKE MANY IN HUBLAND, I AM NOT A WRITER, instead, I am an analyst and a businessman. I didn't take up the keyboard (isn't that sad, the pen has been lost to antiquity) until about two years ago, 57 years after I first picked up a pencil. I have to give Hub Pages tons of credit for opening up a whole new world to me. Now, I express myself on politics, science, philosophy, religion, history, and about any thing else that strikes my fancy. Today, it is about writing and editing.

The point I will try to make later, is that the key to great writing is one of two things, raw, in-born talent or a great editor. (I do have an ulterior motive here, btw.) But, first I want to talk about the writer, the author. I will do that by talking about me (I am not really that conceited ... really) and the way I write and then, as the professors you to say, contrast and compare it to others.

Let me begin by saying I know absolutely nothing about professional writing; grade school, high school, and college were bereft of anything beyond the basic English that I had to take; composition courses and the like were shunned like the plague. My actual training in expressing myself came at the hands of a Colonel in the Air Force, when I was in my 30s, and a Senior Executive Service member in the Pentagon when I was in my late 40s; both had no problem turning papers I wrote for them blood red with corrections; it took forever to get anything through them ... the Colonel had a Bachelors in English, wouldn't you know. Over time, my work came back where I could actually see some of the white paper and black letters. These may be strange tutors, but I spent 20 some odd years as a civil servant with the Air Force and DoD; I learned an awful lot from those two very patient men.

I further honed my skills by creating breifing charts, thousands (it seemed) of briefing charts that I or my bosses had to use to get across one message or another, and at pretty high levels in the military to; needless to say, they had to be perfect. Besides the required papers in college, not too many, thank goodness, that is the sum total of "how I learned to write." Then, sometime in 2010, I found hub pages and something let loose inside.



THE STYLE OF WRITING I have apparently settled on is conversational. I don't know if that is a real style or not, but it seems descriptive of how I like to communicate with you. I feel I write at the personal level, like I am talking to you or a small group of you. Whether or not I am being successful at that is another matter entirely, I have never had any feedback to tell me one way or the other. I didn't choose this way of writing, by the way, it is just what feels right.

Next, I think you will find that I am somewhat like Vice President Joe Biden ... wordy; I just don't know when to stop writing and, as a consequence, end up with three hubs worth of words in one hub. Part of the reason for this is my need to be correct in what I say, and prove it so. Doing that, I am sure, often leads to boredom and/or tears; I think I said I am first and foremost, a numbers guy. Another part of the reason is the result of a lecture I listened to from a professor, presenting for The Teaching Company, who said length is better than brevity, so long as you have something to say with your sentences. He is also the one who introduced me to the wonders of the semicolon; there is so much you can do with that odd, forgotten little mark, as turns out.

Third, I tend to be a bit confrontational, I am generally not one for weasel wording; maybe a better word is direct. Lastly, I write without notes. What you are reading here is, for the most part, the first draft, with some edits (like those last three words, they came a couple of days later). I will go back and try to clean it up and change the phrasing here or there a day or two later, but essentially what gets published is what I wrote the first time. I also write as I think. For example, until I wrote the last sentence and this one, I had no idea this was what I was going to write. Sometimes, of course, it makes no sense, so out comes the delete key. For this piece, I only thought of doing it the day I started writing it, but, for other hubs, I think about it for quite awhile, composing in my head; mainly at night before going to sleep or upon waking. I do it by giving talks to some phantom audience, working out the words and the logic. This iterates several times, honing in on what I really want to say until I just have to put it on screen and then into computer memory. Once I start writing, it sort of flows out. I check to see if the logic looks as good in black and white as it did in my head. If it doesn't, I stare at it and think until something new pops up, then I work with that. And so it goes.

As far as research goes, I rarely do it ahead of time, Wikipedia has made that almost pointless. When I come to a part that I need to substantiate, I stop and go find it, study up on it, and then bring that new found knowledge back into the piece. Often, that may mean taking a break for a while to build charts and graphs, now that I know I need them. Sometimes, however, that may mean changing my whole hub because I found my preconceived notion to be wrong! Case in point - I have always assumed that as a matter of common sense, providing for broad spectrum preventive care saves more in money than it costs ... wrong, it saves lives, but not money, studies have found.

So, that is how I do it, it is certainly efficient, but its effectiveness is still in discussion. I have gone back a reread some of my work and have been horrified at some the errors I found, after having thought I had removed them all.


THIS SECTION WON'T be as long, for I don't know a lot about other styles of writing. But, I do know the main competitor to the way I write is the "practitioner", my word. The practitioner is somebody who does it by the book. They pick there topic and develop a theme. They do their research ahead of time, taking notes on note cards or the electronic equivalent. They write an outline, then develop topic sentences and the like. From there, they fill in the details, pulling in from their research as necessary. Once done, they go back over it, carefully, wordsmith it, grammar checking, looking for nuances they missed, etc. After that, they may go over it again. They have dictionary and thesaurus at hand; they are PREPARED.

That isn't me, I am an INTP, for God's sake, all of the above is a foreign language. Problem is, the chances of me writing a GREAT piece simply doesn't come close to the chances that "They" have of writing a great piece. Another problem is, there are probably a lot writers out there that are closer to my style and there are who are close to "They's" style.

And, this leads me to why I started this hub in the first place ... to talk about the need for Editors.



I ABSOLUTELY NEED an editor! Except for those rare few who are simply born with the talent, to be a great writer, I think you must have a good editor. You can be a good writer without one, if you are well-versed in the English language and grammer and have a good sense of yourself; but, rarely a great one. Why is that?

Because, I think, it is that you are a tree standing in a forest of your own making and you need someone looking at the whole forest with fresh, intelligent eyes to find the flaws in your sculpture of words. You need someone who is not emotionally attached to what has been written to critique it, offer suggestions, and fresh perspective; to see if your storyline has gaps or your logic flows properly or that you are reaching your target audience.

That last point has me going back looking for places to rewrite my "A Short History of American Recessions..." hub-book in order to add more clarity for the benefit of the audience I hope to reach and persuade, the non-economist. So, I took advantage of a very nice lady who commented on one of my hubs, KoraleeP, whom I found to be an editor when I read her profile. She has been helping me, for a price, of course, turn my "Short History" into something that is more readable, understandable, and will end up barren of split infinitives. There is no question in my mind it will be well worth the money. I am also hoping she knows how to get the darn thing published.

Koralee has just started giving me advice as she works her way through this rather long "Short History", and I am hanging on every word ... as well as having to reread the several thousand that I wrote. So hopefully, by the time we are done kneading and pulling at this thing, it will be in a presentable form.

That is what an editor, who knows his or her stuff, can do for you. Just as most writers need a muse, they also need an editor.


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    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 5 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      You are definitely on Happy guy, Mr. Happy; thanks for your observations and compliments.

      How long do I let drafts sit around? Hmmmm. There have been times when an idea hit me and it was short enough (me,short?) that I can get it out at one sitting; those I give at least at once-over read before hitting the Publish key. Others, like the "Short History of American Recessions", sat around in pieces for over a year as I put it together; there I had the opportunity to reread and rework sections many times. On average though, it may take me from three to six evenings to compose and publish; although they sometimes are biblical "evenings", in other words a month may go by between one "evening" and the next.

      My latest one came to me yesterday attending my grandson's 3rd grade A-B Honor roll ceremony. In the auditorium there were posters everywhere announcing an

      "F-CAT" rally; the F-CAT being an annual standardized test resulting from America's "Know Child Left Behind" laws, (one of the Conservative intrusions by the federal government into local state matters, lol) This struck me as being a bit of waste of time and scarce resources, so I came up with a "solution" while waiting for things to begin, and, a hub was born. Now I need to write that "solution" down before I forget it.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      "isn't that sad, the pen has been lost to antiquity" - I guess that makes me part of antiquity : )

      "Now, I express myself on politics, science, philosophy, religion, history, and about any thing else that strikes my fancy." - That makes a Mr. Happy even happier. That is why I love Hub-pages (and put up with its nonsense lol ...): people can share their ideas, opinions, beliefs, knowledge, questions, etc. I can learn about people and that's all I have been doing for the last ten years. Hub-pages just made the fun, funner. Haha ...

      "He is also the one who introduced me to the wonders of the semicolon" - I like the semicolon too and it's so easy to check if a place is good for it or not. All You have to do is replace it with "and" and if the sentence no longer makes sense then, You know not to use it.

      "like those last three words, they came a couple of days later" - how long do You let drafts drift around for before letting your final copy fly out? Just curious (as usual).

      "I do it by giving talks to some phantom audience" - Ya, I talk to myself too. It's okay ... we're okay, right? Haha ...

      "a GREAT piece" - This is a great piece! That's my opinion anyway and that is what great things are: opinions of people about things.

      "intelligent eyes to find the flaws in your sculpture of words" - I would not say "flaws" ... everyone makes mistakes, editing errors occur to the best of us ... it's just that editors for the most part have a trained eye to pick-out little mistakes here and there. A good handle on the English language is of course very important for an editor. Do You know Mrs. Lynda Martin here on Hub-pages? She is a great editor, in my opinion and she has writing many articles about writing and editing.

      I also have edited and proof-read things in the past but the advantage that one gets from me is that I don't charge. Haha ... well, I don't even think I can find my high-school diploma so I don't have credentials. I did study English, Philosophy and History in university though ...

      Which brings me to another point I want to make. The research, proper format and all that good stuff which You said that 'they' have (lol) is needed I think for scholarly work. Writing material which can be considered as credible within the world of academia. Like that essay You read of mine, that was done at a university level standard and I have a few of those posted. I think to a certain extent footnoted quotes are necessary if one uses quotes and the intent is to be credible. Thus, rules have to be respected.

      If the writing is just for the sake of writing and of expressing oneself then, any which way You write is fine. I do change my format and style. I mean, I have straight-up journal entries posted here from years ago, no editing ... just flying thoughts captured on paper (and I do mean paper, my journal entries are ninety-nine percent on paper and have been so for the past twenty years).

      Okay, I gotta go back to baking. It's Easter week-end for the weird Greek-Orthodox people (lol) and I still celebrate it with them! : )

      Thanks for the entertaining write. Cheers!

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 5 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I really hate to come back months later and read what I thought was graduate level work only to find it was really high school drival; it is so embarrassing as I finally take the time to edit it. It is a fundamental flaw of INTPs to get bored with something before the job is done.

      It is killing me to actually edit ... ahead of time ... , my Short History of American Recession hub as I try to turn it into a book, but thankfully, I have the help of an editor,

      I really envy those who can actually "write", I mean with a real pen and paper, and take notes, let alone use them to help them create something wonderful. In college, I took notes only as a memory aid; once written, they rarely saw the light of day again. Since there were no laptop computers in those days (or even tower computers for that matter because the personal computer was still 10 years away), writing was not in the cards for me.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      This was certainly an interesting read. I also find that people either tend to have a natural talent for writing or it has to be groomed over years and years (and at times with the help of an editor).

      I really like the beginning of this article because I felt at home. I always tend to write things out with a pen or pencil before typing. After all, technology can fail us at any time, but I will always have my written notes and outlines.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great Hub on writing, styles, how we develop as writers and the need for a good outside editor. It is very hard to edit ones own work, although I have found that to write it, walk away for 5-7 days and then com back, does allow one to "suddenly see" an awful lot of things. You had an Air Force Colonel? I had an English Professor in college. When she returned my papers it looked like someone had bled to death all over them...and I went into her class thinking I was a pretty great writer! :) Needless to say, I got much, much better. :) SHARING