The Prompter Room

For Saturday, October 24, 2015:

“The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction.  By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.”

                                                                             Mark Twain

This is true for almost anything, not just articles.  Poems, stories, essays, too … If 50+ years of writing and over 20 years of editing my own and others’ work have taught me anything, it’s to look at the end of a piece before I start reading from the top.

Sometimes — not always, but often enough to make the effort — the last page, the final stanza, the last few paragraphs should actually be the starting point.  Sometimes we have to write through and past all that we think we want to say to get to what we really want to say.

This is why it’s always good to put something aside for a while when you finish it.  Don’t look at it for at least a couple of days.  The longer the better.  I know it’s hard, believe me!  When you go back to it, though, your eyes and mind will be fresh.  You’ll be more invested in the purpose of the piece than the effort you put into it.  It’ll be less personal.

Now you can look it over and critique the words, the order of the words: do they accomplish what you want them to?  If not, would it help to flip things around?  It doesn’t need to be back to front — maybe other parts should be rearranged.  Maybe you haven’t said enough about something, and a slight re-ordering right in the middle might spark new or different or additional words while everything else stays the same.

Try it if you’re not sure.  It’s a good habit to get into.


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