February 9, 2010

Put it Away!

Writing is like telepathy: you convey stories, places and people from the vivid depths of your imagination, and you hope to God/Flying Spaghetti Monster/Deity of your choice, that the person reading your work also sees what you see. This is why editing your own work is so hard, because you already know what you are trying to show - what your protagonist looks like, and you probably know the intimate workings of their mind better than your own, so it goes without saying that you are going to be a little bit biased looking at your own work. It becomes hard to see when the lines of clarity in your writing blur over with your own perceptions you mistakenly believe to have put down on the page.

Having other people look through your work is a good way to over come this - to address anything that doesn't come across as clearly as you thought. What might be obvious to you wont be obvious to everyone else reading it. Although if we were to give every single draft of our work to beta readers and friends we wouldn't be very popular - I know I feel guilty with emailing my friends drafts of my work frequently and bringing in something for my writing group to look at every other week. It's ideal if you learn to edit your own work as if it were not your own - so you can give it to beta readers when its the best you can get it (then there still might be issues of clarity and points missed but hey we're trying our best and learning in the process).

Putting your work away and not even looking at it for a month or more is a good way to wipe the memory clean from story; even a couple of weeks is better than nothing with a short story. By the time all pre-conceptions about your writing and personal vision of the work has been forgotten, when you pick up that manuscript and it seems fresh to you, then its the time to start working on it. Words leap off the page you didn't notice before, a plot hole here and there, a contradiction too, and parts when you think "what the hell is this about/what was I thinking?" - this new clarity will yield good results when it comes to tying your work up properly. Still we are bound to miss things another person would see - it is still our intellectual brain child - but it's still a good way to tackle the editing process.

So put away those first drafts for a while and work on something else. When you trust you have forgotten your vision then it's time to come back to it.

No comments: