Reader. Writer. Reviser.
Those three words are the ones that best describe my overall philosophy on what defines an author. More in-depth definitions further delineate what it takes to be a great writer, but let’s start here.
Reader – Before anything else, writers must be readers. Read things that please you, stretch your horizons, and venture into unfamiliar genres. Read for enjoyment, read to learn, and read to improve your own craft. If you find yourself lost in the story of another writer, discern what made you forget you were reading. If you’re distracted by the writing, figure out what the author has done that distracted you. I learn as much from bad writing—maybe more—as I do from good writing. Read the works of others to find your own voice.
Writer – Every word you put down on paper or on the computer screen, be it email, tweet, Facebook post, or birthday card greetings, is writing. Treat it as such. Practice your craft in everything that you write. Once folks find out you’re a writer, they will expect it. And it’s a great way to find the proper words to express yourself no matter what you write. Even on those days when you can’t get to your novel or essay or blog post, you’re writing something, so why not make it count? Of course, time sometimes plays with our ability to write the next Great American Tweet or Facebook status, but you can at least try to use proper grammar, punctuation, and mechanics. When you practice the art of writing in all that you do, you’ll find that putting those thoughts down on paper becomes so easy you won’t even agonize over it. As with most things we do, practice only makes us better. And I’ll add one more thing: experiment and have fun with words no matter what you write.
Reviser – Look at this word. Break it down. The prefix “re” means again. The rest of the word comes from the Latin “visio,” meaning vision or seeing. Revision in writing means to “see again.” It doesn’t necessarily mean putting in a comma or spelling a word correctly. It means to look at your writing with fresh eyes. Rarely do we write something one time and publish it without this step. It’s important to get over the concept that what we’ve laid down on paper is written in stone. Jack Hunter, the author of the Blue Max, was a dear friend of mine. He admonished me when I said I didn’t want to edit something because I loved the passage. “If you love it so much, it most likely means you need to get rid of it,” he said. While I don’t always adhere to his advice, I understand what he meant. Don’t become so attached to what you’ve written that you can’t re-vision it in any other way. A writer must be willing to let go. And the best authors are those who listen to beta readers, copy editors, line editors, and readers of the final polished piece. It doesn’t mean you have to follow everything that’s offered, but you should at least be willing to consider fresh thoughts. If you’re not willing to re-vision and listen and learn, then there are probably other avocations and vocations for you to pursue.
I’m very pleased that you dropped by The Manuscript Doctor, and I hope you’ll look around the site. I believe storytelling is an integral part of any culture, and I am dedicated to helping authors produce the very best story they can write. I promise you that I am always honest in my evaluations and edits. If you want someone to pat you on the back and tell you what you’ve written is the best thing ever put down on paper, then you need a good friend or a relative, not an editor or writing coach.
I will give you my best professional advice and technical assistance to create a work of which you’ll always be proud. It’s up to you, the author, what happens next.