Thank You For YOUR Writing Tips!
Well – I don’t feel quite so lonely after reading the responses to last week’s post. In that article I explored the pros and cons of editing as you write, having read lots of writing tips advising against this habit, which I personally find hard to resist. It’s obvious I’m not on my own!
I’d like to thank everyone who commented – I’m very grateful to you for sharing so generously your own ideas and experiences of writing and editing. Your comments were extremely interesting and revealing, showing that there are all sorts of ways of tackling the editing process – and many different points of view.
Going by the responses I received, we seem to fall roughly into three camps – VERY roughly, because there are subtle differences in all of our approaches:
- There are one or two purists, who obey the rules and don’t edit as they write – hats off to them!
- Several people say they do edit as they write, at least to some extent, but don’t see this as a problem.
- Then there are those of you who, like me, do edit as you write but would like to get out of the habit.
The majority of people who responded admitted to doing some editing on the hoof, but there seems to be a consensus that it’s still a good idea to put your draft aside and have a break before the final edit.
Several people commented that there isn’t necessarily a “right” or “wrong” way of doing it and said we each need to work out what works best for us.
This week I’ve been pondering the question: “How do you stop yourself editing as you write?” – if you want to, of course. I don’t want to be prescriptive here. As the saying goes “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”, so if you’re happy with your own writing and editing style, maybe you should just stick with it.
However, there are some of us who would like to be able to write that first draft just a little bit more spontaneously, without stopping to re-work every sentence, paragraph and line as we go along. If that sounds like you, here are some tips you might want to try:
Writing Tips to Keep Your Editor at Bay
1. Plan It Out
Draw up a plan for your article, outlining the main points you want to cover, BEFORE you sit down to write. Mayura of Mayura4Ever mentions this in his response to last week’s post – he says he doesn’t edit as he writes but he prepares himself first with the points he needs to include – he then gets writing and finds the ideas just keep flowing. He goes back and edits later.
This strategy means you won’t have to agonize too much about the actual content while you’re writing, because it’s already clearly planned out. And the more detailed your plan, the better. Having a solid framework will reduce your need to make editorial decisions about what to include and which bits go where as you go along, because you’ve already made those decisions in advance.
2. Get in the Right Frame of Mind
Tell yourself this is a draft you’re writing – it’s a rehearsal, not the opening night of the show. It’s safe to play and foul things up. There’s going to be no audience for whatever you put down on paper at this stage – this is your practice run.
And it really doesn’t matter if it’s full of mistakes. Mistakes aren’t problems, they’re part of the creative process. We all need to make lots of mistakes as we learn and develop our craft, and the drafting stage is where they’re going to happen.
So quit worrying and get writing!
3. Set Yourself a Deadline
There’s no better way to get yourself moving than to give yourself a time limit. So how about giving yourself a really tight deadline – not for the completed article, but for your first draft. Don’t allow yourself enough time to get it perfect.
Make a decision to finish your first draft in such and such a time – use a timer if it helps – and commit to completing it, no matter how roughly, by your self-imposed deadline.
4. Write Fast
This one might be difficult if you’re a slow two-finger typist, but Syvliane Nuccio of Understanding Your Subconscious Mind and Harleena Singh of Aha!Now both mention writing quickly as something that helps to keep their writing flowing.
Try just writing whatever comes into your mind as quickly as you can. Put your foot on the gas, accelerate – and off you go!
And don’t be tempted to put your foot on the brake until you’ve finished that first draft.
5. Speak It
Apparently some bloggers virtually ‘dictate’ their posts as they write - Margarita Slavkova of Attraction Marketing mentions this in her comment. As I said last week, we don’t edit our speech as we talk – it just all comes pouring out (though, as another of my readers commented, maybe it would be good if we could!)
I must admit I don’t do this myself – I do ‘talk’ my posts in my head as I write, but I only read them out loud as part of the final editing process. However, I can see it might be worth giving this a try.
Pretend you’re a great writer dictating the words of your next bestseller to your secretary (unfortunately, unless you can afford to hire one, you’ll have to play both roles and do your own typing!)
6. Don’t Look Back (one of my favourite movies!)
Atish Ranjan of TeckTricksWorld mentioned this tip, as did Tim Bonner of Tim Bonner Blog - they both suggest you should simply resist the temptation to keep re-reading what you’ve just written and keep writing.
Remember – you can check it for mistakes later.
7. Use Notepad
Applications like Microsoft Word are full of distractions, including all those annoying wobbly red and green lines alerting you to spelling and grammar mistakes. These can be hard to ignore (though you can, of course, switch them off).
Harleena Singh of Aha!Now mentioned that some writers get over this by writing their first draft in a simple text editor such as Notepad, which gives them a clean space on which to put down their thoughts. Later, when you want to edit, you simply paste the content into Word so you can see your errors and make changes.
Pauline Bennett of List Building for Newbies says she uses this technique (apparently her lovely husband put her onto the idea).
So, if those irritating lines get on your nerves and interrupt your train of thought, you might want to give that a try.
8. Practice ‘free writing’
Make some time, outside your normal writing projects, to practice ‘free writing’. Apart from anything else, this can be great fun.
Here’s what you do – set yourself a certain amount of time – it could be as little as 5 or 10 minutes or longer, whatever you prefer. Then just sit down and write, as quickly as you can, without worrying about spelling, grammar or content. Just keep writing whatever comes into your mind.
You may produce a load of rubbish and end up with lots of very rough material you’d never want to publish, but it’s a great way to practice getting your thoughts down on paper quickly and spontaneously. It may also help you overcome anxieties and blockages that can stop you putting pen to paper.
A few months ago I started using my daily diary as a kind of “free writing” session and I do find it’s helping me to become more fluent when I’m writing other things – it just gets you into the habit of writing without editing as you go along.
9. Try Writing With Pen and Paper
I realize this may be a complete anathema to many of you in this computerized age, but I’m going to include it because I find it helpful.
I quickly fell in love with word processors when they first came out all those years ago, but I have to admit they make editing as you write all the more difficult to resist. It’s just so darned easy to hit the delete key or start cutting and pasting and shuffling things around.
Not so easy when you’re writing with a good old fashioned pen or pencil on good old fashioned paper.
I haven’t tried this yet for drafting my posts, but I do write my diary by hand – it’s particularly useful for “free writing” practice, if you feel like giving that a go. I find it makes it much easier to go with the flow – there’s no back-space on a roller ball!
10. Do More Writing!
Of all the tips listed here, I think this is probably the most important and most effective – just write as much as you can.
The more you write, the more fluent and spontaneous your writing will become.
Sean D’Souza’s written a great writing tips post on how to stop self-editing in which he suggests self-editing’s inevitable until you reach a state where you can write so competently that you do it automatically, almost without noticing.
When you’re a novice writer, you make so many mistakes, it’s as if you’re in a constant traffic jam – you’ve no sooner put your foot on the gas when another obstacle gets in the way and you have to change gears and jam on the brakes.
Sean D’Souza’s argument is that if you do lots and lots of writing, you’ll gradually become so good that your internal editor will eventually just beaver away in the background as you write; you won’t even know it’s happening. You’ll always still need to do that final edit – but there’ll be much less of those jarring stop/start edit-as-you-go hold ups along the way, because the self-editing process will be almost imperceptible.
Like a really smooth automatic gear box, you’ll never notice the changes.
Will These Writing Tips Help?
So, there you go – lots of ideas for you to experiment with, if you want to try to kick the habit of doing too much editing as you write.
But I’d like to end with some words of wisdom from my good friend Chadrack of The Web Income Journal – his mentor recently reminded him that the purpose of education isn’t to force ideas and theories on us, but to help us make better informed decisions for ourselves. We should read as much as we can, listen to whichever experts and gurus take our fancy, but then make sure we sift and analyze those teachings and draw our own conclusions.
When it comes to writing and editing, I’m the last person to start telling you how to do it – the best I can do is offer you some tips and advice that I and other people have found helpful and leave you to figure out whatever’s best for you. And I think that’s going to vary for everyone, to some extent, because we’re all so different – with different personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, different writing styles.
I hope you’ve found this helpful – I’ve certainly learned a lot researching this post and I’m extremely grateful to everyone who’s chipped in with their ideas.
Over to you….
Have you tried any of these strategies? If so, have you found them helpful? Do you have any others we could add to the list?
As ever, I’d love to hear from you if you’ve any views or suggestions you’d like to share – just leave a comment below.
And if you’ve enjoyed this post, please don’t forget to share it with your friends!
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