I haven’t done much writing over the last week or so, nor have I posted much here for a while.
Did you miss me?
Oh, well, never mind. I missed posting and hearing comments from readers from all over. The first problem arose the weekend before last. No internet connection for the best part of four days. I find that very frustrating when I want to get on with blogging, doing research and dealing with incoming emails and comments. As it turned out, the solution suggested by my service provider was as simple as rebooting the router. Bingo! Everything now works fine. Often it is the simplest things that can overcome the biggest problems. And I shouldn’t have let it stress me out so much.
Pen and paper
On the positive side, it forced me back to pen and paper for a few days. I managed to complete an administrative task I’d been putting off for too long. It was something that could only be done on paper and so it didn’t need the computer or the internet.
Illness – again
Hard on the heels of the internet problems came further illness. I had a massive allergic reaction to something. I’ve had a history of minor reactions to artificial sweeteners over recent years. This is usually solved by a single antihistamine tablet and the intensive itching lessens within the hour and the welts go down over 24 hours. This was different. It lasted nearly five days and covered almost all of my body. I was taking antihistamines every six hours to ease the itching. All that did was make me terribly drowsy. I slept or dozed through the week, a state not conducive to concentrating on writing.
Now this week I have been recovering from some severe dental work. This has also left me in a state of discomfort for three days.
Emergency blog posts
I have written a number of times about the benefits of having some emergency articles ready for posting on your blog. I usually work up to several weeks ahead and have sometimes a dozen or more articles timed to appear here, one every day. This has been very helpful in times past when illness occurs, or other responsibilities get in the way or I am away on holidays or travelling. This time I had nothing in reserve, so I appreciated those times in the past when I had worked and planned ahead sufficiently.
Anyway – its now back to writing again.
Over recent days I have highlighted the different stages of writing:
Step 1: Plan
Step 2: Write
Step 3: Rewrite
Step 4: Edit
The editing stage is often overlooked by inexperienced writers. This is a crucial stage in the writing process. In the editing stage you need to go back over every word in the piece of writing; it doesn’t matter if it’s a fifty word filler paragraph or a five hundred thousand word novel.
Check for these things:
- Check Spelling: spelling mistakes are avoidable; check – don’t assume it’s right.
- Use the correct homophones: get to know the difference between know and no, right, rite and write, to, too and two. There are dozens more.
- Use the right word: make sure you are using the right word for the context. For example, “She gave the allusion that she was very intelligent.” The correct word should be “illusion.”
- Punctuation: make sure it is all there – and that it is used correctly. Study the classic authors and how they use punctuation for effect.
- Check your typing: no matter how carefully you type, errors will creeep in – see what I mean? Get someone else to check for typos. And watch out for words that have been missed out. (I actually found one after I published this article.)
- Check your use of apostrophes: mastering these is crucial. If you don’t, the Apostrophe Police will come knocking at your door, headed by my daughter.
- Cut out all unnecessary words: ideally, this is done in the rewriting stage. Avoid padding just to reach the word count. (I just cut out four unnecessary words from that last sentence.)
- Grammar: use correct grammar. This is too big a topic for this short article.
- Writing hints – more hints about writing.
- How to be a more productive writer or blogger – includes a list of strategies
- Short story starters – another article in this popular series I have written
- Write first drafts quickly
- Five rules for effective writing
- Read every day.
- Write every day.
- Take time for yourself every day.
Over recent days I’ve outlined the writing process.
Step 1: Plan
Step 2: Write
Now we come to the next important phase:
Step 3: Rewrite
This is a crucial step often overlooked or ignored by novice writers. Many writers feel that, once the words are down on paper or in their hard-drive or on their blog, then that’s the end of the writing process. The stark reality is that this is only half the process.
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite – until you get it
This is one stage I do not really enjoy all that much, but I know how important it is to the final product. Some years ago I wrote a children’s novel. I haven’t yet sent the manuscript to a publisher. I know that the story is complete but the manuscript is far from finished. I am currently doing a major rewrite of the novel. After writing it I left it for some time sitting in a folder. On rereading it I realised some major flaws – not in the plot or the characters, but in the writing style I had used. In short, I went over the top when describing the action.
I have read of some prominent writers who use the rewriting stage as the main focus of their work. Some find this stage to be the most creative in the process, whereas I find it a little tedious. I’ve even read of one author who throws away the first draft and starts all over again. Not sure I could be THAT drastic – but I get the point. Rewriting is vital.
Good writing – and better rewriting.
- Writing hints – many more articles in this valuable series.
Yesterday I wrote about the importance of planning your writing. Without a plan, the story, novel, article or essay – whatever you are writing – could meander on with no real ending or purpose in mind. It will soon meander off into the desert, lost, lost, lost. And in the process, you will have lost most of your readers.
The second stage of writing:
Just write. Get the words down following your plan. Don’t stop for reflection. Don’t stop to edit. Don’t stop to rewrite. Don’t deviate from the task. Just get those words down, no matter how you feel about them. Keep writing, writing, writing. Let the words flow. Let the characters speak. Let the inspiration feed on itself. Get into a zone and just write.
Once you have the words down, then the next stages kick in – rewriting and editing – but more of that in future articles.
- Writing hints – dozens more great hints in this series of articles.
Few people would begin a major project like building a house without first creating a comprehensive plan, though I have seen a few buildings that seem so haphazard no designer could have been involved. A detailed plan is essential to the final product.
What makes writing any different? I must admit that I often approach my writing in a quite haphazard way. I sometimes just start writing and hope that something good comes of my efforts. That’s fine with short pieces, like a short story, a blog post or a letter, for example. A long novel of one or two hundred thousand words is entirely a different matter. Planning is essential. Without planning the story could go anywhere – and probably will.
Many writers probably envy J.K. Rowling and her runaway successful Potter series. A casual glance may bring one to the conclusion that her success was an overnight phenomenon. Not so. After having the initial inspiration for the story she spent FIVE YEARS planning the saga of Harry Potter. FIVE YEARS. That was before she even wrote a single word of the story. In those five years she meticulously planned every detail of the plot, the characters, the system of magic, the system of government and education and many more things that go to make a successful story. In effect she created a whole new world in her imagination and then transferred that fantasy world into her notes. Once that was done, the fantasy must have literally jumped on to the page as she wrote.
The Writing Process
Planning is just the first step to successful writing. According to one article I read recently, the writing process has four major steps:
Mmmm – this is turning out to be the first article of a series of blog posts.
Funny about that – I hadn’t planned it that way!
- Writing Hints – dozens of articles I’ve written about improving your writing.