Posted by: penpatience | August 1, 2013


SI Exif                                              August 2013 Monthly Musing


Writers Words: “If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard.” ~ William Zinsser


I’m supposed to sit down and write daily and I try very hard to do that. I realize that the first draft is just that, a draft, not a finished product. However, when my thoughts rampage ahead and my fingers lag behind on the computer keys the red and green squiggly lines that sporadically appear here and there throughout the page are hard to ignore. I try to disregard them, but it’s tough. My instinct is to backtrack: correct the transposed letter, remove the extra space, fix the punctuation, and review what the Word Program labels a “fragment.”  While correcting typos, spelling, tenses, and grammar is just the beginning of the editing process, I’ve discovered re-checking these items is required continually until the manuscript is complete. And still, there might be that “typo” that isn’t caught until the “nth” edit.  As a writer I scan the document so often that even after the last edit, it’s important to have a second pair of eyes critique the manuscript to find that last missed “typo” and provide additional insight on the document.

One of my favorite books is, “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King.” I’ve read and reread it many times and the knowledge and advice I’ve gained from this book has been immeasurable.  Here is one of my favorite excerpts from their book:

 Are you describing your characters’ feelings? Have you told us they’re angry? irritated? morose? discouraged? puzzled? excited? happy? elated? suicidal? Keep an eye out for any places where you mention an emotion outside of dialogue. Chances are you’re telling what you should show. Remember to R.U.E.   (resist the urge to explain)

 When I was a kid, I brought a favorite keepsake to school for “Show and Tell” and told my classmates all about it. But when I write, the emphasis is on showing not telling. I have to catch myself to Resist the Urge to Explain (R.U.E.) When I identify a mistake of telling not showing, I return to that page correct or redo it. That’s the reason I dislike self-editing—going backward instead of moving forward. However, each day after I finish writing I print the day’s work, whether it’s one paragraph or multiple pages. The next day I reread and edit the pages before I continue writing.  I discovered that this method of self-editing is productive, efficient and has worked well for me.

That said, this 496 word August Musing has been self-edited twelve times:)  While reviewing this Musing a few red and green squiggly lines bugged me so much I immediately went back and corrected them. Yes, it was a brief distraction from my train of thought, but knowing that the minor edits were already done freed my mind to continue “showing” my story.

Self-Editing:  Love it or hate it—it’s a must for every writer.


  1. I SO relate to that, Gay! I’ve taken to writing mostly in Google docs, which has abominable spell checking and very weak grammar checking. That way, I can focus more on getting my fingers to keep up with my brain. When I think I’m done writing my story bit for the day, I’ll the whole thing into the Grammarly editor (yeah… I actually paid for it) and get all the spelling and grammar checks I could want. The nice thing about Grammarly is that I can tell it I’m doing a creative story or a technical document, and it checks differently… with Word, about 70% of the time I have to tell its grammar check, “No, that IS what I meant, you dork.”

    And no matter how many times I read something, I ALWAYS seem to find an error I missed once I hit Submit on the forum or upload to my website.

    (Oh, and every program from Google docs to Word to Grammarly absolutely HATES my Irish character, Moira. Sure an’ donnae she hae a fair strange way o’ talkin’ now!)


    • Hi Kelly,
      Thanks for telling me about Grammarly. Sounds interesting. I’ll have to look into your Irish character, Moira.
      Happy writing, Happy Editing:)


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