As I’m sure you’ve heard many, many times already, writing is only the first step of crafting a piece. One of the next steps is, of course, to edit heavily all of those words that you have set to paper. I’ve heard many pieces of advice throughout my years as a writer that might help with the editing process. But one of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten is to read your piece and to let others read it as well.
This week’s piece of advice comes to us from Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing, which I found on the super awesome website, Brainpickings. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writers and a writer whom I really respect, so I was excited to find his rules of writing on the site. His fourth rule of writing jumped out at me right away and I knew I wanted to make a post that featured it. Here is Neil Gaiman’s rule:
4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
This advice is so simply and is based in common sense, but that’s what makes it brilliant. When you craft a piece of writing, of course you want it to be read one day. Because you are the creator, you should also be the first reader. Go away for some time, work on something different, forget about what you wrote, and sever all of your emotional bonds to those words. Once you have done those things, come back to your piece and read it with fresh eyes. This should help you to find the cracks in your story and what needs to be changed. After you’ve read it, give it to someone you trust and let them tell you what’s wrong with it and what’s awesome about it. Then you can start editing and making that story better.
I’m going to add my own piece of wisdom to this advice: read it out loud. Find some time when you’re going to be alone, because reading out loud to yourself can sound a bit ridiculous. Or find someone you know who is willing to listen as you read your piece aloud. Somehow, the trip that those words make from your eyeballs to your mouth help weed out the pesky issues that only your eyes couldn’t find.
As National Novel Writing Month comes to a close and people set aside manuscripts to be read and edited later on, I think this piece of advice is a great one to keep in mind. Whenever you finish a piece of writing, remember Neil Gaiman’s fourth rule and read the piece before it goes out to other readers.
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan