Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thoughts on Rewriting

by Jason

I've been thinking about this topic, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on rewriting and the revision process, in general. Here's what I've been thinking:

I've been a copy editor for a few years now for various publications and individual writers, and I'm always amazed at how many people unleash their thoughts in a first draft and send it on to the printing press, without reading over what they've written at least once. Don't get me wrong; I never pen anything perfectly, either, but due to the conspicuous nature of their errors, it's obvious these authors have opted not to look over their writing.

As I've considered rewriting — while frequently implementing it in my book thus far — I've found it to be helpful in improving my project significantly, not just the writing itself but the clarity of the concepts I'm trying to convey. And following Strunk and White's fervent plea to "omit needless words" has been a large part of what I consider successful rewriting. Above all, clarity seems to be the most important goal, in my book.

I have two questions for the group:

1.) Have you ever noticed that extremely concise writing that uses a scant economy of words is sometimes cumbersome and unnatural? (One would suspect that fewer words would equal clearer writing, but sometimes it takes me longer to read well-written prose. Have you experienced this, too?)

2.) Do you think it's possible to revise and rewrite too much? (I can just imagine myself rewriting my first page of my book a thousand times to try to get it perfect. At what point do we encounter the law of diminishing returns?)

1 comment:

  1. When I did course work I would rewrite a paper dozens of times to get the wording succinct and perfect. So much time was spent that my wife complained, "Just submit it already!" I was accused of being a coputer hog. I'd get a decent grade and that would reinforce my behavior. However, some of my most memorable work comes from sitting down, cranking it out, and doing a quick rewrite. Set it aside, call it done. I think I need to adopt this approach more by gaining confidence in the writing.