© 2008 Marylane Wade Koch
First comes the idea; the writer rushes to the keyboard to start that story or article. After hours or weeks of labor, the work is complete. How wonderful it feels! However, is the project really finished? Unfortunately many manuscripts never reach publication because the author stops after this initial effort. Getting the story or article on paper is basically writing the first draft.
Professional writers know that writing is rewriting. The next critical step in the publishing process is revision of the draft. Rewriting is time consuming but necessary to advance the manuscript from the slush pile to successful publication. Below are some basic actions that can make a difference in whether an editor accepts or rejects a writer’s work:
- Print a hard copy of the manuscript. The careful scrutiny of revision is best accomplished by reading a paper copy of the work. Editing on a computer screen can lull the author’s attention and result in errors.
- Give the manuscript a vacation. Put the paper into a file or a drawer for a period of time. Some authors suggest the work should cool for a minimum of 24 hours while others recommend a week to a month. Time away from the story or article provides the distance necessary for objective revision.
- Read the manuscript out loud. The ears are less forgiving than the eyes, so errors become evident as the author hears the spoken words. Listen to the rhythm or cadence of the phrases. Read aloud to highlight misused words like from instead of form or homonyms like bear and bare, your and you’re, who’s and whose, weak and week, or there, their, and they’re.
- Correct basic grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes that can prevent any good idea from finding a published home. Use the spell check function on the word processor to confirm the spelling of all words. Check out resources available at local bookstores and online. Every writer needs access to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, a good dictionary, and a thesaurus. The Internet offers excellent free resources such as the following:
Online copy of The Elements of Style
Online dictionary and thesaurus with pronunciation
Online list of homonyms
Now, pull out that first draft and get to work. Rewriting requires time and energy, but the investment will pay off in better writing and successful publication.
Marylane Wade Koch has over 30 years of experience in writing, editing, speaking, coaching, and consulting. Koch has authored numerous articles and several healthcare books. She is a contributor to publishers such as Elsevier-Mosby, Harcourt Health Sciences, Delmar/Thompson-Cengage, F.A.Davis, Jones and Bartlett, and Salem Press. She is a contributor to the Chicken Soup anthology series. Koch serves as President of Byhalia Christian Writers and conference faculty for American Christian Writers. She is a member of the American Medical Writers Association and the Mississippi Writers Guild. She serves as adjunct faculty at the University Of Memphis.