As an editor, one of the questions I am most often asked is, How do I get my work finished? This question is common, especially among new or first time writers. Many people have lots of good information or ideas rolling in their heads and then when it's time to write it all down, they disconnect or hit a block. Sometimes people will write 50 or 100 pages and not know how to finish it out so they can present it for publication.
As a serious nonfiction writer, you will want to learn how to overcome these obstacles because your success depends upon conquering them. You should never deceive yourself into thinking that you will cause these common writer's concerns to completely subside. Disconnects, writer's block, and paragraph hooks are with you to stay. The key to finishing what you start is to know how to handle each one effectively.
For those who find themselves regularly hitting a writer's block, here is a short list of things that can work to help you move past it. Keep in mind that these suggestions are not a cure-all for all writers and what works for you may vary according to your natural disposition, likes, and habits.
- An afternoon off of your writing project; watch a movie with your family.
- Running around the block; or any other exercise that you enjoy.
- Sex, endorphins feed the creative mind.
- Writer's clubs, engage the minds of your colleagues, a play, a concert, or expose yourself to other creative talents. Creativity feeds creativity.
- A good night's sleep; sometimes you're just tired.
- A religious service, prayer, or meditation. Get your mind off of yourself.
- Say, "I'm sorry." to anyone you may be at odds with or anyone who is offended by you. Strife has a way of killing your creative energy.
Again, the paragraph hook is something that you must practice with in order to successfully use it as a tool that will help you to finish a work. It is also a tool that if you do not learn to use it as you write, then you will rewrite your material later in order to use it to correct something. So, if you are trying to fix something you wrote that has a rough flow to it, then you can expect to do a minor rewrite to insert corrective hooks that help to polish out your work. As a novice writer, you can use paragraph hooks and minor rewrites to correct a work your editor bounces back to you IF you get the hang of it. If you have an editor who is working with you, and someone you have relationship with, then correcting your work with the proper use of hooks may make the difference between the editor's acceptance or rejection of your work.
WORDS TO KNOW
- Disconnect. A place in your writing where the subject changes sharply with no transitional material.
- Writer's block. When the writer hits a place in the content where he cannot continue to create material.
- Paragraph hooks. Connecting words that help to weave your manuscript together.
As a writer, you will do well to consider these things. While it is not necessary to make elementary explanations of ideas or subjects that are common knowledge to a large portion of the readers, you must make it easy enough for the unexpected reader to catch onto. In thisarticle, we will discuss how to make your manuscript better so that your editor gives it a warm reception. The biggest step in making your editor receptive of your work is to write in a manner that demonstrates a consideration for the reader. You will want to rewrite to get the bumps out, give thought to your sentence rhythm, and polish your manuscript as much as is reasonably possible in order to gain favor with your editor.
It is important to communicate to you that you should not attempt a rewrite or refinement before you have completed the entire content of your manuscript. Many novice writers throw themselves into a writer's block by trying to perfect every thought, topic and sentence before moving on to the next segment or chapter of their writing. If you try to perfect as you go, then you will never complete your book or story. Editors generally earn their pay even if you do an excellent job of rewriting and refining before submission. But you will never get to the editor's desk if you think you should or could write perfectly as you go.
Here are some tips I often give new writers for rewriting and refinement:
- First and foremost, finish your writing; don't rewrite before your article or book is completed.
- When you rewrite your manuscript, you want to check for the obvious faux pas and correct them to the best of your ability; don't focus on issues of style or editorial tastes because that is the editor's work.
- Make sure that your logic and the flow of your content work well for the subject that you have written on and for the finished material as well.
- Check your flow and if you are bumpy, then use hooks or paragraph add-ins to smooth out the flow. Make sure your reader does not have to work to read your material or to follow your points.
- A rewrite is primarily to check for bumpy logic and issues of flow; only these problems require minor or significant rewrites. Find them, address them, rewrite them, and do your best to smooth things out because you will not want your editor to do it for you. When an editor handles a partial rewrite, entire segments of your material can be deleted or you can run the risk of losing your meaning in the rewritten segment.
Rhythm is also important when handling a rewrite because it is an element of writing that you will want to address while dealing with logic and flow issues. To simplify the idea of linguistic rhythm, think of brush strokes in a painting or the pace at which you jog. The rhythm of your writing is very similar. Rhythm deals with both the length and cadence of the words in your sentence structure and with the length and cadence of your sentences inside of each paragraph.
Another way to think of rhythm is to think of nursery rhymes or poetry.
"Hickory, dickory, dock. The mouse ran up the clock." Has a very staccato rhythm to it; one that sticks in the minds of preschoolers. The purpose of rhythm in your writing is to make it memorable. Good writing doesn't need to be like a child's rhyme or elementary poetry in order to be memorable; after all, the goal is not memorization, but impression. Good writing is made better by mindfulness toward the linguistic rhythm of the words.
Polishing for Your Audience
Polishing for your audience entails a certain amount of catering to the reader; it is a mindful approach as to how the reader will interpret your writing. For example, if you are writing to high school students, then you likely do not want to make technical references in your material unless you know the readers will be technical students. In a similar way, you do not want to write using inner city or ghetto slang if you are writing to a group of farmers.
So, when you polish your manuscript, you will want to take out the slang or technical language and change the wording to better fit your audience. Part of the retro-fitting of your content language, that is, rewording after it is written, includes taking care to correctly use common expressions. It is extremely common for new writers to improperly use or misuse certain phrases or expressions in the content of their writing.
Here is an abbreviated list of commonly misused words:
- All right.
- As to whether.
- Due to.
- Kind of.
- Line, Along these lines.
- Secondly, thirdly, and so on.
- Split infinitives. Placing an adverb between to and its infinitive.
- Thanking you in advance.
- They/He/She. Mixing singular and plural pronouns.
To get a greater detail of how and why these are misused phrases, pick up a copy of The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. You will want to check out Chapter 4 which gives a complete list of the most commonly misused terms and an appropriate explanation of each. This book is published by Penguin Books and is in its Fourth Edition. It is considered one of the writer's and publisher's bibles on style and every writer should be well acquainted with its content.
WORDS TO KNOW
- Rewriting. A reworking of a sentence, paragraph, or section of your writing.
- Rhythm. A linguistic pace or cadence in which the words flow with a music like beat.
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