Even though I like things to be clear and concise when I read them, I do love decluttering a piece of writing. I revel in sorting things out (a bit like a messy room – I love to plan my attack and get straight in!). Anyway, today I got to utilise this skill whilst rewriting a section of a non-fiction book for someone and got so carried away with the process that I just couldn’t put it down. My aim was to guide the reader through a series of logical steps, and at the same time make the information easier to understand. Whilst I was rewriting it, I found myself drawing diagrams to explain the information (for the more visual learner).
To cut a long story short, I really enjoyed doing this exercise which made me realise where my passion lies: “I love making things easy for other people to understand”. I’ve also just realised that this blog ‘My Writing Notebook’ is a classic example i.e. this is the 294th day of learning a writing tip and presenting it in a way that someone else can understand it (I hope I’ve succeeded in the posts so far!).
“Rewriting is where the game is won or lost; rewriting is the essence of writing”
To quote more from William Zinsser’s audio programme On Writing Well – he likes to:
- …replace an awkward phrase with one that is more graceful
- …strengthen the transition between one sentence and another
- …to see his piece growing in clarity, simplicity and brevity and strength
Zinsser also explains how much pleasure he gets in seeing a piece of writing ‘growing in clarity and strength’ right before his eyes. I believe that this feeling can be applied to someone else’s information as well as your own.
6 further thoughts:
- Rewriting is required when all the facts are there, but it isn’t quite presented in a way that someone new would understand.
- If you make the information concise and draw attention to the important points, you will have more chance of captivating the reader and keeping them engaged.
- Bullet points are useful for those who like short sharp information.
- Breaking the piece up with sub headings is ideal for readers who like to scan read.
- Never overload your reader; instead, captivate them and leave them wanting more.
- The way the information is presented helps the page come to life.
My aim today, when editing the section of the non-fiction book, was that anyone (irrespective of knowledge) could understand what I had written – I hope I succeeded. Only time will tell…
- More on Rewriting (gilmiller.wordpress.com)
- Slow progress (edwardpitt.wordpress.com)
- Did I rewrite this? Sure did. (tompfeifer.wordpress.com)
Yes, agreed, Sandra.
Re-writing is super-essential.
I look at writing (slightly similar to our present knowledge of the human brain) it has two sides. Writing is not merely cutting. You have to have something there to trim.
Writing is addition AND subtraction. First words are added to words, ideas and sentences to ideas and sentences. Then the unnecessary words are deleted. Both phases are essential. In the extremes: freewriting followed by word by word, line by line considerations
Short is not always best. But clarity is. And brevity, these days, is preferred by most readers, I think, than long blocks of nothing-but-words text.
By the way, you always seem to come across clearly to me and often add insights and resources I am glad to get.
Thanks Bill for your comments and your kind words (and sorry it took me so long to reply). I like the way you explain writing as addition and subtraction. I think that re-writing and editing is a really interesting part of writing because you already have text to work with and you don’t have think of what to write.