The Key to Being a Professional Writer: Create, Rework and Edit

Hello to all the writers out there. The best advise I can give regarding grammar is don’t let it consume you. Sit down in front of your computer or pick up a pen and writing pad and start creating. Don’t worry about grammar or where to stick commas; this isn’t the stage to allow yourself to be distracted. Write! Emerge yourself into the creative process and allow it to flow from you to the page.

But you haven’t finished yet. Here comes the ‘roll up your sleeves and start digging’ part of the process. Explore the possibilities until you have your start, middle and ending. Develop your characters so they act, speak and react in believable ways while remaining true to themselves. Use the full scope of colour and depth, smells and noises, and make it come alive for the reader. Play the ‘what if’ game and challenge yourself. What if this happened then how would each character act or react, and how would that affect the plot and sub plots. Keep working on it until you make it as good as you can get. Keep delving deeper with each draft moving closer and closer to the story that it’s destined to be.

Now here’s an important step: put your work away and don’t look at it for at least a week (longer if possible). If you can’t leave it for that long, then enjoy a coffee break at the local cafe, dance around the house as if no one can see you, or go for a long walk. Do whatever it takes to break away from using your creative side and distance yourself from your newly created work.

Return to your written piece with a fresh mindset and look at your work as if it’s the first time you’ve seen it. Now it’s time to start editing it.

Check your grammar and punctuation. Look up any word you’re unsure of in a good quality dictionary. Once you think the piece is at its best, give it to someone (or multiple people) you trust to read it that can provide insightful feedback. It doesn’t matter if it’s a family member, friend, neighbour or work colleague, but pick avid readers who are capable of providing quality feedback. If you don’t have someone like this in your circle of friends, then have it professionally assessed.

Listen to their comments regarding the content and understand they are trying to help. They are giving their point of view, perhaps uncovering an area you haven’t considered. Pay attention to what they question because that can identify storytelling problems. Are they having trouble understanding a particular section, and that’s why they are questioning it? Perhaps it’s not clear enough and the section needs reworking. Perhaps the sequence of events has been revealed in the wrong order and isn’t working with the timeline. If they point out a word or punctuation mark that seems inappropriate — look it up!

Rewrite the piece taking the feedback into consideration. You don’t have to take all feedback on board when reworking your story if it goes against what you want to achieve. For instance, a suggestion about changing the plot might tell a different story to the one you want to tell. However, understand why a suggestion was raised and if you can improve your work without compromising on the story you want to tell. It doesn’t matter if it takes 20 drafts. A story takes as long as it takes until it’s right.

Have you finished yet? Not quite. I’d recommend hiring a professional editor. Family and friends can help knock the rough edges off and highlight understanding difficulties within a story, but you still need a professional who knows the rules and who has been trained to see the inconsistencies in a story.

If your goal is to have your work published then you have to be professional — that means your attitude as well as your work. You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s important. If you were applying for a job that you wanted, then you’d make sure your résumé was impressive before sending it anywhere. Sending your manuscript to a publisher works the same way. You’re competing against all those other writers.
Even if you opt for self-publishing, you’re still competing with other writers to get a reader’s attention.

Another important rule, perhaps the most important of all: don’t give up! Hard work and dedication will get you there, but be prepared for the long haul. Everybody wants their dreams to become reality today, but the most important dreams – the ones that mean the most to you — take time. And when those dreams start to turn into reality — you’ll know you’re on your way.

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