This is the second entry in a series of posts on my writing process. In my previous post I described how my “Project Box” and “Tinker Box” help me refine my writing through several drafts.
I often impose a word count on my writing. To meet this limit, I first cut the inessential ideas, then ideas that are good but not great. If you cut the weak in favor of the strong, the writing you leave on the page will possess the potency of a powerful concentrate. Readers will have a taste and say, “Wow, that packs a punch!” If they dip their fingers into a spoonful of frozen orange concentrate dissolved in four gallons of water, they’ll barely pick up the citrus taste. And soon they will forget it entirely.
When your writing begins to solidify and you know you have firmly left the brainstorming stage, make sure you commit your ideas to the highest standards of logicality. Never say “close enough.” Only a bulls-eye is “close enough.” Stand up for your own principles of writing. Don’t take an agreeable approach. Be a critic. That doesn’t mean verbally harassing yourself. It means noting where there is a problem and fixing it. Conversely, when something reads appropriately, congratulate yourself. “That word choice conveys my thoughts precisely. Well done.”
Aim for a piece that flows nicely, drawing the reader in. If you read something and think, “Hmm, that idea doesn’t flow all that well into the next one,” do something about it. Don’t just sweep your concerns under the rug.
I easily lose count of the number of drafts I go through, and that’s a good thing! Strong ideas grow and solidify, and weak ideas fall off the page. Word, sentence, and paragraph orders shift, creating more logical and flowing prose. Slowly, a real piece of writing takes form. It’s exciting to witness.
Once the piece has neared completion, I stop copying and pasting between the Project and Tinker boxes and instead just read through the Project Box, tweaking word choice, adding and removing commas, and making small alterations until the piece reads smoothly and logically.
By this stage, I’ve rewritten the piece so many times that I’ve nearly memorized it. This is not a testament to an excellent memory — it’s simply the result of reading a slowly-evolving piece over and over and over again. You should know what you’ve written like the back of your hand (unless you don’t know the back of your hand very well, in which case this analogy does not hold). Only if you know exactly what you have written can you approve of it or not. If you’re not really sure what you’ve written, then your words are not deliberate, meaning they are left up to chance, which means you are not choosing in a conscious manner how to represent yourself.
I will continue this series in next week’s post.