When it comes to writing, it is a craft. In poetry, there is structure, and different styles, and the same for prose. Now there are different styles of poetry, and prose, and several genres of storytelling. But again, this conversation isn’t necessarily about the style one writes, or the genre one writes, it is about the craft of getting it right.
As I mentioned in my last post about Socrates and that wisdom is knowing you know nothing, you have to take this same approach when writing.
You’ve labored behind your desk, behind a computer tapping away, and 32000 words later, you have your first draft. You read it, you love it, done.
Not so fast. It rarely if ever is “done”. Often times when writing the first draft we use a lot of filler words, and do a lot of telling versus showing. It’s not something we do purposefully. It’s just, we know what we are saying or trying to say, and we are just attempting to get it written. We don’t even notice how many times we use the word “it”, or “that” or “knew” or “watched” or “heard” or “felt”. We don’t notice adverbs, or passive tense, and glance right over comma splices, and dialogue tags, and dangling modifiers and homonyms. I’ll give you an example, I wrote “it had been three 3 1/2 years since I’d been home” in a sentence, and for the life of me I overlooked the word three. Not even the editing software noticed or cared.
However, I also know the costs that come with hiring a “professional editor” and sometimes it’s a choice of buying groceries or finding an editor and we often go for the groceries. Many times, unless you have a great group of friends, or are in college and are in creative writing classes, finding Beta Readers can also be difficult, and if you are anti-social just asking someone is difficult.
Still, though, even if you don’t hire a professional editor or find beta readers, it’s not enough to utilize Microsoft Word software to detect misspelled words or point out sentence fragments, because what it does detect, is awesome, but nowhere near good enough.
I would suggest in saving the money and investing in an editing software program, and maybe even more than one. You can also utilize free sites, such as Hemingway Editor, or Grammarly, to assist you in finding errors, and sticky sentences, and I find them to be very reliable tools as a writer.
For me personally, I have invested in ProWritingAid, Grammarly, and Hemingway Editor and I will take the writing project to all three programs and search for any thing missing, mistakes, etc. Still, with all those fabulous tools working for me, there is nothing greater than a set of eyes. And if you don’t have an editor or a beta reader you have to fine tune yourself to looking for those mistakes, and you will find them (in most cases) even after the editing software assists you in fixing the basic common errors.
One suggestion is to print the story. Yeah, OK, you’ve written 300 pages, and you have a modest, cheap, “Sabre” printer (The Office reference) that may catch on fire if you attempt to print that much. But it really isn’t that expensive to have the book printed and even bound at Staples or Office Depot. This way you aren’t having to sit behind the desk. You can take a red pen and go through each page, taking your time, and highlighting your errors. Think of yourself as a college professor that has 50 essays to grade by 50 freshman and only 3 really gave a damn about impressing the professor with their words.
I will end with this though, don’t become robotic and allow the editing software to fix every thing. It doesn’t really care about style or things you interject as a writer, it isn’t programmed to understand that yes you did mean for a specific word to be there. It wants you to correct it and maybe you should. But trust your instincts also. You know what you are saying and trust that your readers will understand it also.
Trust me, I know the fun part is that first draft, but I encourage you to fall in love with the craft of writing. Fall in love with the editing process, because it will only make you a better writer at the end of the day. Honestly, it will.