Saturday, August 9, 2014

The secret to becoming a better writer

Do you want to be a writer, but hesitate? Do you think, “I have things to say, but I just can’t write well”? I've heard too many people say this, and I know that many times it simply is not true. I think what people mean when they say such things is simply that they don’t produce perfect first drafts. Guess what? No one does.

Being a good writer does not mean that beautiful, inspiring, grammatically perfect, fully formed sentences flow effortlessly from your fingertips whenever you sit down to write. Nor does it meant that you must endure excruciating writer's block first, but once that's out of the way  inspiration hits and those perfectly formed sentences will begin to flow.

Let me tell you a little secret, one that every successful writer knows, a secret that can make anyone a better writer. Are you ready for it? Here goes: real writing, good writing is rewriting.

Does that sound scary? Are you thinking “writing is hard enough, so re-writing will only be harder”? Then we won’t call it rewriting, we’ll call it revision. Re-vision: taking a fresh look at what you just wrote and discerning where the weaknesses are, then doing something to make those parts more effective.

The first draft is never the best draft -- in fact, very often, it may be downright lousy. (You should have seen the first few drafts of this article!) But if you take the time and effort to figure out what is making it lousy, you can make it better. Maybe it will take two, three, four, or eight drafts before you have really said what you want to say, in the way you want to say it, but when you’ve taken the time to get it right, you’ll have no regrets.  Check out the recommended reading at the end of this article for some great ideas on how to go about revising your writing.

Let’s face it, though –it’s hard to be objective about your own writing. You may have trouble seeing what’s working and what’s not, because, although you know what’s in your head, you may not realize when it doesn’t all make it onto the page. That’s when you might want a trusted friend or colleague to take a look at your draft and tell you what they find works or doesn’t, which part is boring or confusing and which part is sparkling with life and truth. Joining a writing group can help. Don’t know how to find a writing group? MeetUp is a great place to get started finding a group that meets in your area and shares your interests.

Every month the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group meets to give members a chance to get feedback on their writing, swap progress reports, and generally engage in mutual support and encouragement. Our next meeting will be Tuesday, August 12, at the usual time and place. Feel free to attend – we have no dues, no dress code, no secret handshake, no intimidation factor. We would love to see you there!

Want to know more about revising and rewriting? Try one of these helpful articles.
  • Revising & Rewriting, by Judy Reeves, “writer, teacher, and writing practice provocateur.” Solid advice on what to look for when revising.
  • A Month of Revision, by Matt Salesses. Most of this is just for fiction writers, but there are some wonderful nuggets here for any writer in any genre.