It seems the last time I posted on this blog was in late March. Oops! How can we possibly be in the midst of November already? Life just gets in the way sometimes, doesn’t it? (Thank goodness for clichéd phrasing to explain away a situation!)
In an effort to dust off and revive my poor blog, let’s talk about November. What about it? No, not the weather. Not Thanksgiving or football season. Since I’m an American, it’s safe to assume I’m talking about American football, of course. And the holiday in which we remember a three-day feast attended by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth back in 1621, to celebrate the harvest after the Pilgrims’ first harsh year in America. A holiday that did not exist officially until President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it so in 1863. A holiday that intentionally forgets all the wrongs done by European Americans to American Indians over the years. A holiday that—sorry. The historian side of me kicked in. I do apologize for that. I mean Turkey Day—or not turkey day for some folks, as the case may be—the holiday that involves family, consuming large quantities of food, watching football, and either preparing to avoid or take on the shopping madness that is Black Friday. For those of my readers who are not American: Happy upcoming St. Andrew’s Day, etc., etc.!
This is a blog about editing and writing, remember? Apparently, I need to remind myself of that as well. So, how does good writing relate to the month of November? I could make the case that good writing relates to every month. Oh look, I just did.
First off, the 2012 US presidential election. I will not get into politics here, except to post and comment on the following that went viral during the presidential debates:
Let’s ignore the grammar mishaps and talk about the content. What content? Exactly. The political practice of talking a lot without actually answering a direct question is really annoying, isn’t it? It’s just as annoying for an editor to read content like that. Or for anyone else. Writers are often wordy in the hopes that flowery language will appeal to the reader and to make it sound like the writer is the authority on a particular subject. (Which, unfortunately, is not always the case.) Writers, please think of your readers! They might not want to wade through all of those words. It is the editor’s job to help the writer trim the fat, as it were, and get to the real meat of his or her topic.
The meat of this topic: Cut the crap and get to the point! Or: Be concise!
I admit, when I write, I often go on tangents (see Thanksgiving rant above). I tend to be extremely wordy, at least at first. My writing process is to throw a bunch of ideas down on the page and then to cut and stylize after. Other writers prefer to outline first and/or edit as they go. The writing process doesn’t matter. What does is the clarity of your end result.
That brings me to my second topic: When not to be concise. “Rough” drafts. A prime example of this is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which takes place annually during the course of November. For those of you who aren’t familiar with NaNo, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. That translates to 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Five thousand words is a bit on the short side for a full-length adult novel. But that’s not the point. The point is to get in the habit of writing every day. That’s the real goal for writers participating in NaNo. Whether the quality is beautiful or garbage does not matter. What does is getting words on the page every day, and lots of them. NaNoWriMo is an example of when you can and should let conciseness go. Be creative and let your ideas flow! You can return to your manuscript later to fix it. During NaNo, we are told to shut off our inner editor. (Hi, me!) This is a really difficult thing for most writers to do, but trust me, it is liberating and well worth the journey.