Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordsmith at Work: Writing and Rewriting

Corrections are in order. 
First, an update on the new website. I have most of the technical stuff figured out, now I'm down to two things that need work. Most importantly, I really need to order some high-quality images for my header, and possibly for my design. And I need a logo.

Second, I need some programming. The Hire Me page in particular is undergoing major reconstruction. It should be way more useful on the new site. Now, on to the post!

As The Wordsmith, I get a lot of orders from my family and friends, mostly because they want me to give them a discount. One such order just came in from Jim Crocker of Interactive Circuit Deisgn, who wants my help rewriting his About page.

(What's written there right now is mostly placeholder. Jim wants something completely different up there. The new one has almost nothing in common with the current page, and it'll probably be up in a day or so.)

Working on the page tonight was rather interesting. I got two different versions of the same paragraph- one written by Jim, and one edited by his wife Jennifer. They were effectively the same words, just Jennifer rearranged all of the sentences so that they had structure.

I took those two paragraphs and rewrote the entire thing, creating six blog-sized paragraphs from his one larger paragraph. Now all the words sound good, but they don't flow. I'll need to do at least one more edit before it's ready for anyone else to see it, but my rewriting got me thinking.

I have a writer friend who absolutely refuses to let anyone read her work before it's gone through at least three revisions. Another one keeps rewriting her stories because she's never satisfied it's good enough. It kills me sometimes, the way she constantly rewrites.

I usually write in thirds. At first, if possible, I'll write my stories with pen and paper. Then I'll type them up onto the computer. Last, not long after I finish typing, I'll give myself a small break of an hour at the most, and then I'll reread what I just wrote and make changes. I feel like that gives my work enough opportunity for revision without spending excessive time editing when I need to be moving onto the next thing.

There's a trap you can easily fall into, if you edit constantly and don't have a point at which you decide a specific work is "good enough" to keep writing. I always want my work to be the best it can possibly be, but I also know that I need to finish the book before I can edit it as a cohesive whole.

So, the question I leave with you today is, how much revision is enough? How do you know how much is too much? Would you rewrite a page three times to make it better, or is reading it over once satisfactory?

Wordsmith at Work: Editing is half the fun.


  1. I tend to rewrite until the section says and does what I want it to. I'll edit and polish the prose in bits and pieces afterwards, even while writing subsequent sections. (The break helps my thoughts on the section being written settle a bit.)

    1. That sounds like a sensible way to go about it. ^_^