Thursday 15 May 2014

The ever-evolving writer

Someone I follow on Twitter has just asked do we ever want to edit earlier work. I would say the answer is “yes” for most writers and publishers. We move on all the time. Many writers, I know, often want to edit their work as they read it aloud at author events. Recently I watched one I admire pause as she read the opening to her novel that she’d read many times before. She stumbled on the word “suddenly”.
“Do you know,” she said, “I always tell my students to avoid that.”

That first manuscript
Do you remember how good you thought it was? How eager you were to send it out? And how disappointed you were when it was rejected?
We see a good many of those. We’ve started to recommend editorial agencies to them  and may soon be offering them one of our online courses.

The accepted manuscript
This can be quite tricky.  The experienced writer sends us a very polished manuscript. They know what they’re doing. They’ve edited and edited and edited. And now we ask for more changes. The fact that the writer continues to evolve saves us here. By the time a manuscript is accepted and the editorial team is ready to work on it, the writer has moved on. They’re even more aware of their own flaws now and have acquired some more expertise.

How does it work?
I guess writers get more and more practice at their writing. They’re also probably reading a lot. Most creative practitioners anyway indulge in a continuous cycle of action research. They produce, evaluate their production, and then make adjustments next time round based on that evaluation. Then they produce, evaluate …   

Osmosis and talent
Some people seem to have a natural talent for writing. That talent alone doesn’t always carry them that far. They still need to put in the hard work before they get somewhere. But where does that aptitude come from? I’m quite convinced that they are well-read and pick up what works in texts from what they read by a type of osmosis. Subconsciously they recognise what works, how whatever that is works and apply it to what they do.  

How we carry on improving
Our recommendation to our writers is “read, read, read and write, write, write.”      

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