Rewriting makes the difference between good writing and poor writing. Even the best writers are unable to express themselves perfectly on paper, or by word processor, in their first drafts. Newly created sentences usually need help. They may be unclear, far too long, or ostentatious. The writer's thoughts may have been incompletely expressed. Alternatively, the writer may be leaning too heavily on clichés. In addition, his or her writing style may appear disjointed and lack a natural flow or rhythm. Nevertheless, the writing is expected to flow smoothly and convey your thoughts easily. It is expected to be interesting, rather than boring or irritating. This requires rewriting. While many persons are unwilling to accept this truth, others are simply unwilling to expend the (mental) effort required to rewrite (or edit) their work several times.
Many of us, who attended school long before the popularization of the personal computer, were taught how important it was to prepare several drafts of our written work before submitting it (to the teacher). Consequently, James Michener's reply to one of Larry King's comments during a radio interview several years ago was not surprising. For persons who are not familiar with James Michener, this writer is probably the most famous living American author. Larry King, of course, is a broadcaster with CNN. During James Michener's lifetime, millions of his best-selling books of historical fiction have been sold in hardcover. (Exodus, Hawaii, and Alaska are three of his works.) During the interview, Larry King had suggested that James Michener, his guest, was probably the greatest writer in the world. The writer corrected Larry King by saying, "No Larry. I am perhaps the most greatest rewriter in the world." He then went on to explain that it was his practice to write seven drafts of a manuscript before releasing the final version to his publisher.
Before the advent of word processors, rewriting was a more laborious task than it is today. The writer was required to actually copy the corrected text in its entirety, or to correct the existing draft by a cut-and-paste operation using paste or scotch tape. A writer was able to make only a few revisions by the cut-and-paste method before the work became unintelligible to the typist expected to retype it. Today's availability of easy-to-use computers and word processing software has simplified immensely the rewriting task. Rewriting has become a simple on-screen editing task.
Rewriting often consists of changing word sequences and tightening the flow, correcting punctuation, and even creating new paragraph breaks. It also involves replacing occasional words that are more precise or better convey your intended meaning. Above all, rewriting means ensuring that a reader will be able to understand all sentences and phrases easily and that they follow in a natural sequence. It is a cumulative process involving small changes. With every small improvement, one's writing approaches more closely his or her ideal or desired result. Just relax. It takes patience.
© G.A. Robinson 2002-2013