Monday, October 19, 2009

A Second Look At Our Work

I was recently asked by a writer to look over the first portion of his manuscript. I sensed that he felt it wasn't quite ready for submission, and he was right. It had great potential, but it could use some more polishing. I made some suggestions, and I believe he was relieved to be given a sense of direction.

Whether you're writing a novel, a business letter, or an email to a friend, it's a rare person who can produce something on the first pass that can't be improved. A good friend of mine, a multi-published author, recently confided that she found numerous errors in a supposedly edited copy of her latest novel. When we look at our work a second time, we see typos, unclear sentences, even incorrect wording that we missed the first time around. And if that's true for the written word, why not hold our conversations to the same standard?

In one of my novels, the protagonist is being prepared by her attorney for testimony. "Pause before you answer. Not only does this give me a chance to object if necessary, it lets you consider what you're saying. Take your time." I'm as guilty as anyone of failing to follow this common-sense advice in everyday conversation, and it's resulted in instances when I've paid a penalty in misunderstandings. Maybe we should replace the dictum of "Look before you leap" with "Think before you speak."

What about you? Have you ever written something and sent it off, only to find an error in it later? Or said something that you'd have phrased differently if you'd taken a few seconds to think about it? If you haven't, let me know and I'll send you the application form for sainthood. And if you have, maybe this post will help you avoid that error in the future.

(By the way--I've revised this post twice after I started it. And there still may be mistakes in it. But I tried!)

4 comments:

Timothy Fish said...

I frequently write posts without much editing and then I forget it. That's fine until someone leaves a comment along the lines of "that's a great post" and I have to read it to see what was so great about it. That's when I see my mistakes. Yeah, great post, but I can't even type.

Carol J. Garvin said...

When we proof our work I think we read what we intended to say -- what we thought we said -- not what is actually there. That's why I always have beta readers go through my work before submitting it. That's not always practical or possible with e-mails and blog posts, of course, but I've found saving the draft and returning to it later helps. I haven't really thought about applying that to speech, but I can see where it could be very useful. Instead of leaping into the void with a reply or comment, "Think before you speak". Good advice!

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Richard, if only I could tell some of my stories...but they will have to wait until the people involved are no longer obvious in the anecdote. Years, perhaps.

Anyway, the short answer is YES, I have sent things off prematurely.

:-)

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Richard, if only I could tell some of my stories...but they will have to wait until the people involved are no longer obvious in the anecdote. Years, perhaps.

Anyway, the short answer is YES, I have sent things off prematurely.

:-)