*Disclaimer: I am not an expert, my knowledge is based on what I’ve learned through limited research and experience.
There, now we have that out of the way, let’s get started shall we? Oh, one more thing, we’re going to dance through a mine field of metaphors throughout this post while we’re at it. Why? Well, why not? Ready? Good, here we go:
Writing is a tricky business, filled with pit falls, bumps in the road and the occasional cliff to fall over. Most of us, I have found, never have a person sit us down to explain the facts of the writing life to us. Usually we fall in love with the written word, become addicted to weaving magical worlds and chugging up the hill still oblivious to the first cliff we’ll tumble over. Most of us don’t tumble into it until after we’ve typed The End. We’ll dance, party hardy, and overall pat ourselves on the back while bragging about our accomplishment.
SPLAT!!!! Followed with a *beep, beep*
Sucks, yep, really sucks. I’ve always felt bad for poor Wile. Editing is hard for writers, I have yet to meet one who enjoys it. Or, if they had to rank all the jobs of writing it wouldn’t be first on the list. For me, personally, I rank it 4 or 5 on the writing list of fun… No, make that number 10, but anyway, not our favorite pastime. Writing, like many activities, the more often you accomplish tasks, the easier they get. Editing, by default, should be the same way, right? Sadly it doesn’t seem that way… but before I get ahead of myself, let’s pause to see how little ole’ layman me evaluates writing and editing in relation to our head.
Most of us know that we, as in people, have two sides of our brain. Right and Left. Each part of us is controlled by one or the other. Walking, talking, thinking… writing. Yeah, love our brains. Without it we’re nothing. Sure, this sounds great right? Clearly this is an over-simplification so let’s get a bit more specific and I’ll do my best not to throw too many terms out as I don’t want to get bogged down in the technical. I’m using them to illustrate a point so bear with me through this next paragraph (or two).
So the brain is like a computer and within it are four areas or lobes that, as writers, we should be aware of … for this post only (unless our day job is medically related in some form or we need the knowledge for a story). The parietal lobe that receives and processes information from the body. Specifically, for us, there is a section known as the Wernicke area that allows us to understand information associated with language inside this lobe. Another area to know about is the Frontal lobe that has Broca’s area where we process language which is usually for speaking (wait for it, I’ll explain why I’m pointing this out soon, promise).
The last two which is important as writers are the Occipital and Temporal lobes. The first, the occipital, is how we process visual information from eyes to the parietal lobe (Wernicke’s area) and the frontal lobe. The Temporal lobe processes sound to relate to the same areas….
Phew, okay, that was a lot and hurt the head a little. *Chuckles* If you want more information on this, which is more technical go here.
When we write, crafting words and worlds into stories it like turning on a faucet. The faucet in this metaphor being our Wernicke area for example where words flow from which sometimes pours out fast with high pressure and at other times at a slow trickle. The first draft is about using those areas (and probably more for all I know). At this moment I again I want to reiterate that I am not an expert and I know very little about this. Okay, back to our regular scheduled program.
Editing, however, requires us to use different aspects of our brain. If you think about our skill set like a tool box, we need to be able to sort and divide it into little areas of the box. For example, editing uses some from the writing box of our brain to process language with our eyes. The hard part is that when we only use our eyes for both writing and editing, we are making life harder for us.
Now, I’m going to propose an idea, which I’m sure is not new. I know it’s not because Google found 91,700,000 results for it (granted only the first 1,000,000 are probably relevant), but the one I liked the most is http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/revising-drafts/ because it’s relevant for ALL kinds of writing. The idea is this: read your stories out loud.
Some suggest waiting until you’re near the end of your revision process, until you’re at the polish stage, but I disagree. When I’m stuck on an area, when I finish a scene, even when I’m trying to hammer out dialog I transfer from writing to sound. I do this because I’m changing which part of the brain is being used. Remember the Broca’s area and temporal lobe where sound becomes important? By using sound with our writing, we’re forcing it to work in concert with the parietal lobe.
It’s like waking up our head from the writers’ fog. Yeah, I like that. Using our voice, or having your computer (the physical one, not our brain) read it out to you, is like setting an alarm clock to wake us up. So set that clock, let it ring and perhaps editing can be a little easier, less of a labor, and give us a bit of a thrill to hear the story come to life and hear the infliction of characters come to life in action and voice.
Just an idea, but has a lot of potential don’t you think?
- Diagnosing & Curing Common Writing Problems (iacquire.com)
- Avoid Writing Pitfalls, DIY Proofreading (kathleenwcurry.wordpress.com)