How to Edit Your Own Writing

Yess!

red pencil edit

by Caroline McMillan (Lifehacker.Com)

Like most newspaper reporters, I got into the biz because a) I love writing and b) I’m pretty good at it. But it’s a sobering profession. You file your masterpiece, only to find your editor thinks it’s two dozen “tinks” shy of publishable. Repeat this scenario a couple hundred times, and you’ll find you’ve grown some thick skin. You’ve also gotten pretty darn good at self-editing. So, I’m here to impart some wisdom on the art of quickly perfecting your own work—how to hone, trim, and morph clumsy words and phrases into a clear, concise message that will wow your audience.

It could be a company memo, a PowerPoint presentation, an email, or a report—but no matter the medium, these quick editing skills will always come in handy. Some other bonuses of good self-editing skills: People are less likely to misunderstand you, and bosses and peers will pay more attention to the meat of your message.

So here we go. Let’s say you’re working on a personal assessment for your annual performance review. You’ve written the first draft, but you want to make sure it’s in perfect condition before you submit it. Here’s your game plan:

Print Out Your Work

Always do this. Always. It’s a pain, but when you’re talking performance reviews, that 20-yard hassle of a walk to the printer could mean the difference between a 4% or a 5% raise.

Here’s why: As any writer or editor will tell you, critiquing someone else’s work is much easier than deconstructing your own, because outside eyes bring a fresh perspective. To approach your own work critically, you need to simulate this “outsider” perspective by viewing it in a form other than the one you wrote it in.

If you typed it, print it out. Give it a quick read-through, then wield your red pen and start slashing. (Ruthlessly. More on that below.) If you hand-wrote the first draft of your evaluation, type it up, print it, and analyze. That’s right—either way, you should still be heading over to the printer.

Take a Break

If you’re on deadline and this step isn’t a luxury, proceed to No. 3. But if you do have a few minutes to spare, putting a literal distance between you and your work creates an emotional distance as well. When you come back to it with fresh eyes, you’re more likely to spot awkward wording, unnecessary phrasing, and plain ol’ mistakes. So take a stroll, go to the bathroom, chat with a co-worker. If you can let it simmer overnight, that’s best of all. Then you can be more ruthless with your edits.

Read it Out Loud

The best writing sounds smooth—almost like you’re speaking, without getting colloquial. So actually listening to your written syntax is one of the best ways you can catch areas with jangling phrasing. Read your work out loud and change anything that doesn’t make sense or that you stumble over. And don’t be afraid to use contractions-that’s how us non-robots talk, isn’t it? (Imagine that last sentence without contractions. Now you see what I mean.)

Pretend You’re the Intended Audience

Now that you’ve read and re-read your document, it’s time for some editing role play. Keeping with the performance review example, read the document again, this time as if you’re the boss. Is it so verbose that you’re getting bored by page two? Or does it flow easily and leave you with a “Wow, she deserves a raise!” impression? What stands out to you most? Jot down your thoughts, make changes, and move on to the last step.

Be Ruthless

The final step is to edit your work down. Yes, chop some of those words, sentences, and paragraphs. Like crazy. But this will help make sure that the true meat of your piece is what shines.

If you need a little help with this, here are some tips:

Keep paragraphs short: Three to four sentences is more than enough to get to the point quickly and succinctly.

Reduce each sentence to its essential parts: A well-defined subject, strong verb, and object.

Avoid the overuse of subordinate clauses: Quick little grammar refresher: A subordinate clause (also known as a dependent clause) has a subject and verb but can’t stand alone as a sentence. So let’s take this sentence that might appear in your personal assessment:

“When staff fatigue was high during the fourth quarter because of lower earnings than projected, I led an initiative to improve morale.”

Let’s rework it a bit, make it more straightforward.

“I led an initiative to tackle staff fatigue and improve morale in the wake of disappointing fourth-quarter earnings.”

Nix adverbs and adjectives as often as possible: On your printout, mark through every adjective and adverb you see, and then add back the ones that you think are absolutely necessary. When in doubt, find a verb that says it better.

Infuse opinionated language with authority: During my freshman year of college, I got a B on a kick-ass paper. Upset, I asked my professor to explain his (obviously flawed) grading system. He said I was downgraded because I repeatedly used phrases like “seems to be” and “it appears.” When you make a point, he said, throw yourself behind it. Don’t give the impression that you’re not sure you fully support your own argument.

That advice stuck with me, and you should pay attention to it, too, especially when your career is in play. Don’t weaken your argument with wishy-washy sentences that start with “I believe,” “In my opinion,” and “You may disagree, but… ” You’ll see the difference it makes.

Self-editing is a tough skill to develop, but it’s one that can only help your career. It ensures your writing puts your best foot forward, even when your charming self isn’t there to do the talking.

The Perfect Last-Minute Christmas Gift for your TV Writer – And It’s Almost Free!

$4.99, to be precise. Not bad, eh? Especially since it’s one helluva book.

TVW Kindle Cover 625 x 1000 sm

Written by TVWriter™’s boss – Larry Brody, a writer-producer with 40 years of experience in every aspect of television – Television Writing from the Inside Out is a true Insider’s Guide that offers his unique expertise and an outlook that’s the direct result of having written and produced almost 1000 hours of television of all types, from daytime serials to animated children’s series to syndicated, cable, and U.S. and European network primetime series, pilots, and Movies of the Week.

This book examines the entire procedure not only creatively but in terms of how television actually operates. TV as a medium is both creative and commercial, but this really isn’t a fact to be bemoaned. Instead, Television Writing from the Inside Out shows how to make the situation work for you by using creative elements for commercial ends–and commercial elements for creative ones. In fact, it’s so practical that it tells you what neighborhoods to live in when you move to L.A., how to dress, even what kind of car to drive.

Script Magazine has given Television Writing from the Inside Out an unqualified rave review. And it’s the official textbook for the TVWriter™ Basic Online Workshop!

Buy the Kindle Book at Amazon.Com for only $6.99 $4.99 

Oh, and you don’t need a Kindle to read a Kindle book. You can also read it on your PC via Kindle’s Cloud Reader, as well as on your iPhone, iPad, and other readers as well.

And, if you simply must have a “real” book that you can hold in your hand:

Get the trade paperback at Amazon.Com for $19.99

Film Success Based On – Get Ready – The Pitch!

Oy! As if there wasn’t enough pressure to perform in the room. Now along comes Deadline.Com with this terrifying news: (Unless you’re a pitching expert, in which case go ahead and laugh)

gotta be a pitching foolMovie Profits Driven By Stories And Directors, Not Stars, Academics Conclude – by David Lieberman

Movie making is often an insane business. But moguls turn out to be pretty rational about it according to a chapter in an upcoming economics text and a recent article in an academic journal. Researchers say that studios wisely bet on stories and directors. Star worship “is all but a myth,” writes S. Abraham Ravid — a finance professor at Yeshiva University — in The Economics Of Creativity, to be published next month. “Stars can still sell magazines, but not movies.” Why do studios pay big bucks for Academy Award-winners? It’s part of a strategy, along with co-financing, to reduce the risk of making big-budget films — especially R-rated ones, which represent the biggest gambles. Stars should draw at least some fans, even to a stinker of a movie, the theory goes. “In an industry where a big failure is much more dreaded than a big success is wished for, insurance is worth its weight in gold, or in eight-figure salaries.”

OK, so how can studios predict what scripts should generate the biggest profits? Moguls have to resort to non-quantifiable “soft information.” (Economists love to look at ways execs make decisions without data that they can put into a spreadsheet.) And it’s safer to pay a high price for a short “high concept” pitch as opposed to a longer proposal, according to a study in the Journal Of Cultural Economics. The quality of the initial sales pitch “can affect not only the price of the screenplay but the success of the completed project,” write Ravid, Yale University’s William Goetzmann and New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Ronald Sverdlove. Execs understand that “audiences too prefer simple ‘high concept’ stories.” In other words, they pay higher prices for short, easily understood pitches because it’s the smart thing to do — not because complexity goes over their heads.

At first we were all “This is terrific! We’re the storytellers! We’re gonna score!” But then we reread this little gem: ‘The quality of the initial sales pitch “can affect not only the price of the screenplay but the success of the completed project….”‘

Why does that terrify us? Simple. We’re writers, not salesmen. And the idea that what we say at that initial meeting, in that terrifying, over-decorated room, to the team of “show-me” hipsters gathered behind and around the desk…well, let’s put it this way: It took 2 Xanaxes just to write this post!

You Can Be Cautious or You Can Be Creative (But There’s No Such Thing as Being “Cautiously Creative”)

This thought seems so simple, so obvious…and yet there’s so much to disagree with. (He said with cautious creativity…Or was it creative caution? Hmm.)

Designer and Author George Lois once said “You can be Cautious or you can be Creative (but there’s no such thing as a Cautious Creative).” Basically, you can never innovate without taking a little risk. If you’re being truly creative, there’s always a chance your fresh idea will flop, or won’t be doable, or otherwise won’t succeed. If you’re working on something that’s a guaranteed success, it’s unlikely you’re creating anything new and different. If you really want to create something new, brace yourself and grow those wings on the way down the cliff.

From Lifehacker.Com

Creativity Happens When You Least Expect It

…Especially if you’re as impatient and demanding as we are!

Luv this pic!

by Sian Beilock

It’s well known that there are circadian or daily rhythms in basic physiological functions like body temperature or digestion. Interestingly, these circadian rhythms extend to our psychological abilities too. Simply put, we tend to have more brainpower at our peak circadian arousal time, which leads to success on activities that require us to concentrate and mentally ‘buckle down.’

Morning types (i.e., people who are most alert in the morning) excel on a whole host of cognitive tasks when they complete these tasks early in the day. This is especially true for tasks that require working memory, like systematically reasoning through a problem or juggling numbers in your head. Working memory is our flexible mental scratch pad. It’s the brainpower that helps us keep what we want in mind and what we don’t want out. On the other hand, evening types, those who are most alert at night, tend to perform at their best on demanding cognitive tasks later in the day.

But not all tasks require working memory for success. In fact, sometimes people’s ability to think about information in new and unusual ways can actually be hampered when they wield too much brainpower. This means that what we think of as our optimal time of day, may not be optimal for everything.

Read it all

We aren’t sure why, but we get all goose-bumpy whenever we see the phrase “circadian rhythms.” It just, you know, turns us on.