Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Write Better: Rewrite

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.
 —James Michener

When I read a good book, I want to quit writing. Who can compete? I’ll tell you who: the writer who rewrites the manuscript until the writing is right. It’s all in the editing, friends. Here are five random tips to improve your writing:

1. Read your work out loud. You will catch your grammatical mistakes more easily. You will notice your bad writing habits. You will also hear your writing voice. Once you hear what does not work, modify it. Then read it out loud again.

2. Limit your use of adverbs. Some authors modify every action with an adverb: she walked slowly, he ate hastily, they talked very quietly. As Twain said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you're inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it, and the writing will be just as it should be.”

3. Don’t change your verbs into nouns. For example, many writers use investigation instead of investigate or exploration instead of explore. When your characters make an investigation into the truth or begin an exploration, your readers fall asleep. But when your characters investigate and explore, readers pay attention.

4. Find the right word or phrase. Clichés bore me to tears. First drafts are invariably full of clichés. Look for these, eliminate them, and then find the best words and phrases to express your ideas. Mark Twain said it this way, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

5. Cut, cut, cut! When I write my first draft, I write more than I need to make my point. I repeat the same idea multiple times. I use extra words. I go off on tangents. When I rewrite, I eliminate the excess. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

If you read a good book, you know the writer worked at it. It’s the same thing with any well-written copy—on a Web site or in a book. Don’t give up when your first draft turns out little better than a fifth-grade essay. Put it away for a few days or weeks. Then rewrite it. You’ll be brilliant someday, too!

WANT TO USE THIS TIP IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander teaches professionals how to write faster, get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at and sign up to be a member of her Write Now! Mastermind class for professionals at

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