Alphabet Blogging Challenge Day 24
It’s day 24 of my September blogging challenge.
The letter is X
and the word is X-RAY
Yes, this was always going to be a tricky one! Try counting how many words in the dictionary beginning with x . It won’t take you long!
But it’s not just a cheap trick to get me out of a difficult x-shaped hole, because I think x-ray vision is what we need to apply to our writing once the first creative burst is down on paper.
The first draft is where we can let our imagination and creativity roam free. It’s important at this stage not to let our critical minds exert too much influence, as it can become impossible to write anything for fear of writing rubbish. Not that I always manage to take that advicef: the impulse to correct, rework, polish, is so strong, that it can be hard to squash it. And sometimes, beginning the day’s writing by rereading and revising the previous day’s has the advantage of letting you immerse yourself in the thread of the story again.
But, generally, too much tinkering – constant stopping to rework a particular paragraph – will block progress. However, once that draft is done, it’s time for the real task – rewriting, revising, editing, the minute checking of every facet of the piece. And this is where our x-ray vision must come into play. It’s the moment to distance ourselves from our ‘baby’ and examine, probe, question with the fierce gleam of an editor/writer’s eye. I can only manage this part of the process with a hard copy. Text on the screen looks different somehow from text on paper. It’s easier to miss mistakes and weaknesses on the screen. Although I was discussing yesterday with some students how putting the text into a different font or changing the size of the font can sometimes make us look at the piece with fresh eyes. It’s worth trying anything to help ourselves spot what’s not working.
With their x-ray glasses on, writers have to review their work from numerous angles:
- are the characters engaging, believable, sympathetic?
- are there some saggy/slow bits or parts of the plot that don’t hang together?
- is the dialogue realistic? People don’t talk in beautifully crafted, coherent sentences.
- are the characters’ goals clear, and do they make sense?
- do the characters’ emotions come over?
- are there repetitions, clichés, qualifiers, an outbreak of ‘justs’, weakners such as ‘appeared to’ or ‘seemed to’?
- have the 3 As crept in – adverbs, adjectives (sparing use acceptable), abstractions crept in?
- is the writing, clear, precise, economical?
The list of things to check is endless and the role of self-critic is difficult. There are a number of agencies, as well as individuals, who will offer editorial advice and feedback, but obviously these services have to be paid for. What can be invaluable for a writer is to work with a writing group. A good group will offer constructive criticism, as well as providing motivation and discipline. Critiquing other writers’ work can also help writers see what works and doesn’t, and why. In writing competitions, the work of authors who belong to writers’ groups stands head and shoulders above the rest in maturity, style and construction. (Celia Brayfield)