When you are beginning to write, you gather as much data as you can. You continually add allied thoughts. . You use your right brain, the creative side.
So when you have an idea and your mind says, “not relevant to my core subject,” you ignore the doubt. You don’t cross anything out. You behave as magpie.
To polish your copy, you do the opposite.Here’s how: shut the door and banish distractions. Read your copy v e r y s l o w l y and concentrate.
Better still, read the copy out loud s l o w l y. If reading out loud is impractical say the words to yourself soundlessly. The instant you sense “this shouldn’t be here,” cross it out.Trust your first judgement. Trust your first judgement.
What “shouldn’t be here?”. Any material that is superfluous, because you’ve said it before in a different way. Or because it is not central to your main argument.
You should be removing words as well as ideas. You want to communicate in as few words as possible. Shorter is better. Shorter is richer. Shorter is more bang for your reader’s buck. Short sentences are easy to read and understand.
If you are fond of a certain sentence, but you know deep down it is not relevant here’s a tip to help you excise. Create a heading at the end of your draft called “overmatter.” Whenever you are not sure whether to cut or leave a sentence, cut and paste it into overmatter.
Later delete all the overmatter. Sometimes doing it in two steps is easier than one fell swoop.
As novices we love a certain word, phrase or musicality. Don’t be distracted by that. Think only of your reader and the shortest route to communicating your idea.
My mentor, Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones, says,“when you go over your work, become a Samurai, a great warrior with courage to cut anything out....be willing not to be sentimental about your writing when you reread it. Look at it with a clear, piercing mind.”
“Clear writers have accepted the grim reality,” says John Trimble that nine-tenths of all writing is rewriting...perhaps most important of all, they are sticklers for continuity. They link their sentences and paragraphs as meticulously as if they might face criminal charges for negligence.”
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