What You Write First Will Need Revision

June 15, 2015

Writing is a solitary activity. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that the first words written aren’t the best words for the final piece.

I was first published in the mid-1970s and have loved words and writing ever since. Here are a few tips I’ve collected that you might want to consider when you’re faced with going back over your manuscript to see what needs revision.

  • Write simply and clearly. Beginning writers often run the risk of falling in love with their prose. Offer the reader a clear and enjoyable reading experience instead of showing off your command of obscure words/phrases.
  • Realize that every new project is a challenge. The problems you faced (whether the problems are in the story, the character, the organization, the descriptions used, etc.) in your last project differ from those you’re facing in your current project. See each project with new eyes, even though you’re drawing on experience when you work on it.
  • Show the story instead of showing off. Consider how you would tell the story to a friend and start there. You’ll write differently when you think about your best friend reading your writing.
  • Be willing to let your subconscious take over when you’re stuck on a word or searching for an idea. Some of the best things come to us when we don’t force them.
  • Accept that every writer is really two people: (1) creator and (2) editor. Allow your creator to be the person he/she needs to be to get the words out, then call in your editor to do what he/she does best (improve your writing).
  • Give yourself permission to write first and edit later. Avoid falling into that terrible trap of telling yourself something (sentence, description, word choice, etc.) isn’t as good as it could be. So what if it isn’t? You can go back and make it better, but you can only do that if you get it down first. The more fun you have getting your original writing down, the better foundation you’ll have to work on when you edit.
  • Read your words out loud. Writers groups do that because hearing the words (rather than simply seeing them on paper) can point out problems with word choice, dialogue, and can even find typos in your manuscript.
  • Read the types of things you want to write. You want to write mysteries? Read them. You want to write biographies? Read them. Self-help books? Read them. Good cooks know what makes a good recipe. Good writers know what makes a good read.

I trust you’ll find something in this collection of tips to help you. As you grow in your writing career, you’ll risk rejection and failure, but you’ll also realize reward and respect on many levels. Happy writing!


Tips for Writing Your Memoir

June 3, 2015

Sometimes writers get stuck and stop writing. If you find yourself in that frustrating place, consider writing your memoir.

A memoir isn’t an autobiography (a life detailed with supporting documents, etc.). A memoir is a recollection (from memory) of your life.

Be aware, however, that most writers experience that out-of-control feeling one gets when the writing takes on a life of its own. It’s good to realize that’s a real possibility in memoir writing. You’re trying to preserve your story from memory, but one thought reminds you of another and that reminds you of something else and before you know it, you’ve restarted or refocused your memoir writing (possibly several times).

Of course you won’t want to put every memory in your memoir because that would make it too long or boring or disconnected. Here are some tips to help you focus your memoir and get you writing again.

  • Consider your life experiences in broader terms–that is, not just as personal experiences, but also as experiences humans have.
  • Ask yourself what happened to you, why you think that happened (sometimes we make mistakes and those mistakes have consequences).
  • Review your experiences and be honest about how you responded. Examining your own response may be useful to others reading your memoir.
  • Be honest in accounting for your behavior, feelings, etc. Your life brought you to this point and helped you form your world view, decide on your behavior, and become the person you are. Chances are things happened in your life that you wish hadn’t, but they did and they had an impact on you. You owe it to yourself to understand and accept that life isn’t always what we wish it was.
  • Embrace the drama you’ve experienced. Everyone’s life holds drama at some point. There’s nothing wrong with remembering the drama as long as you don’t let it become an obsession. Instead, see it in your memory, accept that it is just that–a memory, and decide what influence it had in making you who you are.

You might want to begin by spending some quiet time remembering your life. Don’t document every year. Instead, jot down memories as they come to you. Everything’s connected under the umbrella of your life. Now it’s up to you to decide what to include in your memoir. Happy writing!