Wednesday, 19 June 2013

How to Write a Thing: A Guide for Editors

Happily and unexpectedly, I got a job as a proofreader in Fort St John. In the three months between this new job and my old job, I freelanced as a copy editor and writer. Writing, well, it gives me the nerves, which is why I so often resort to bullet points around here. But after pushing out a number of little assignments, I settled on a system that works for me. I thought I'd share that system in case any of you editorly folks find yourself having to write something. Steps? Steps.

  1. Write a horrible, really awful draft. Get those thoughts and ideas on screen, and don't worry about order or clarity.
  2. Go away and leave it alone.
  3. Give it a substantive and stylistic edit: rewrite and reorganize until you have a draft that's just pretty bad.
  4. Go away and leave it alone.
  5. Give it a copy edit: edit for grammar, style, and spelling.
  6. Go away and leave it alone.
  7. Proofread it: check for typos and last minute errors; make sure you didn't type "of" when you meant "or," of vice versa. [sic, you guys, sic.]
  8. Let it go: send that sucker off.

So you see, writing, like everything in life, is just editing. Of course, if you get assignments for more than 500 words, 1) Good for you, and 2) You may not have time for so many review stages. Try not sucking so much in the early steps. 

Congratulations! You can write a thing!



13 comments:

  1. "Try not sucking so much in the early steps."

    ADVICE FOR ALL

    Now I feel semi-bad that pretty much all my writing is stream of consciousness, done in 20 minutes writing. BUT NO ONE IS PAYING ME. So I rescind my feeling bad feelings. Also HURRAY NEW JOB AND YOU WILL HOPEFULLY NOW GET A JULEP BOX THEY ARE THE BEST TO GET.

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    1. Well, you're lucky your stream of consciousness is so entertaining and informative. And yes, exactly, writing for free = writing however you damn well feel.

      I haven't signed up yet but I am sooooo eager! Beginning of July, when things have normalized and I get a paycheque from this job, I am going to take the crap out of that style quiz (I love quizzes. I'm almost as excited for the quiz as I am for the actual nail polish. ALMOST). And I will figure out a way to tell Julep you referred me! I may have more questions for you at the beginning of July, is what I'm saying.

      Delete
  2. I'M SO PROUD OF YOU! You are my Sister of the OCD, my partner in being really just out-of-control anal about other people's writing. We're practically family now, is what I'm saying.

    Writing gives me the nerves, too. "You mean, I have to put something on this blank screen? There's NOTHING...and I have to make SOMETHING. Just...out of nothing?" *sweats and trembles and seeks solace in alcohol*

    I will refer frequently to your tidy list of tips. Like right now, as I'm trying to somehow write about Eleanor & Park. (I'm still writing the horribly, really awful draft. And day-drinking.)

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    1. Yay, edi-sisters! And man do I know what you mean by the blank screen of doom. I read Eleanor & Park during the readathon, which was FOREVER AGO NOW. GET IT TOGETHER, SELF. I'll just comment on your review when it's up and count that as a win.

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  3. Love this! So many people put too much emphasis on writing and not enough on rewriting or editing. There's a lovely chapter in Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird that's titled "Shitty First Drafts". It really spoke to me.

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    1. Thank you! And that chapter title sounds like exactly my kind of thing. I think I've heard it mentioned, too. Definitely have to pick that book up! I am goodreadsing it.

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    2. I look forward to the day when goodreadsing is in the OED.

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  4. '[sic, you guys, sic.]' - EDITING JOKES.

    I love you so much. Move to Saskatoon. DO IT NOW.

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    1. I love you too so much. Also I miss you lots. YOU SHOULD MOVE TO FORT ST JOHN. Eeeeh, I might rather move to Saskatoon. Have you officially moved yet?

      Delete
  5. Hooray for new job!

    This is wonderful and such good advice, even if I normally jump from Step 1 right to Step 8.

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    1. Hooray! Thank you! Step 1 and then Step 8 is definitely my blog writing process. I mean, it's only the internet. It's not like it's there FOREVER. *hyperventilates*

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  6. Congrats on your new job!! I am writing my first article for our trade publication and I am soooo nervous about it! Thanks to your tips, I'm going to step away and chill before going back to it. Whew!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you!

      I hope walking away from your article for a bit before going back at it helps! I found it completely necessary, for me. Good luck with it!

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