Re-Writing by Gregory Cannioto

posted Nov 9, 2016, 10:24 AM by Writing Center
Regardless of whether you write fiction or essays, blog posts or dissertations, poetry or prose, you will need to re-write what you have written. Many writers think the blank page is the greatest thing to fear, but imagine the danger of writing non-stop, thinking you’re doing the best work you’ve ever done, when in reality you may be spitting out words that may not even be intelligible to you the next day, let alone anyone else. Despite this danger, so many people may think their only concern is to proofread or edit after that draft is finished, when writers should stop and reconsider the actual content of their writing as well.

Let’s consider the biggest issues first. In both fictional and non-fictional writing, there needs to be a sense of basic consistency and logical flow throughout the text. Imagine the following writing scenario…

    Audrey screamed as she saw the horror of the vision in front of her. The knife, still embedded in her lover’s chest as he fell, shined in the     moonlight. She couldn’t believe her eyes as she ran to him, the perpetrator disappearing into the quickly gathering crowd. By the time        she got to him, it was too late; the knife and its wielder had done their job quickly, and left no evidence beyond the hole in his chest.

Imagine that in the middle of writing this paragraph, the author had a bit of writer’s block, took a break, made some coffee, and finally came back and wrote the rest of the paragraph. However, her hesitation in the middle of the narrative leads to one major problem. In the beginning, it’s clear the knife is sticking out of the victim’s chest, whereas there’s a gaping hole in the second half. Unless the knife being stolen was going to be part of the plot, she may only notice the inconsistency when re-reading and re-writing this section. Now think about the timespan of this error coming into being, which was only a few minutes. Imagine the problems that can spring up over the years of work that can go into writing some long novel

This type of error can also come up in essays, where a long sentence may lose verb tense agreement, or even in an essay where the author loses track of, or changes his thesis, thus leading to inconsistent arguments in paragraphs. The lesson is that nobody is perfect, and no one will remember every word he has written, so there must be a review process, which could be more in-depth than the original writing process itself.

Another major issue that re-writing can address is that sometimes what the writer has to begin with is just poorly done. As a writer, you may think you have written what you meant to say on the surface, and it may even be consistent, but with further review, it still might not be what you had intended to convey. Maybe there’s a certain allegory you wanted to subtly reference in your writing, but you make it so blunt and obvious to the point, that it becomes comical. Obviously this was not your intention, but you didn’t notice it while writing in the moment. Give yourself the time to develop your writing, not just put whatever comes to mind on paper.

Only after taking the time to detach yourself from what you’ve written, reading it fresh (almost as if you didn’t write it at all), and criticizing what you see for better or for worse, can you get a real understanding of what you need to do once the drafting is done and the re-writing begins.

 


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