If you want to write well, you have to learn to self-edit. If you’re writing a book, you will of course probably want a professional editor to give your book the once-over, but truly, you as the author know your material better than anybody, and you can learn to trust your instincts once you learn some basic rules of good writing. I mean, who wants to spend tedious hours wading through a pyramid of tomes with the hope of learning to write well? Not I. It kills inspiration and creativity, in my opinion. A few good sources will be sufficient.
C S (Susanne) Lakin, professional copy editor, writing coach and novelist from California, says when you begin editing your writing, leave your work for an hour, a day or a week, and then read it again. If anything seems awkward to you, trust that feeling. Re-write that part. It’s almost always right.
Learn to write tight. That means you cut out unnecessary words in a sentence; writing that is less wordy has more “punch.” Use exclamation marks with rarity; overuse indicates an amateur writer.
I was blessed to be able to attend the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference several years ago. One speaker I found especially fascinating was Gary Burlingame, a researcher and international lecturer on the use of human senses. I bought his book at the conference, and I highly recommend each writer have one. It’s titled “Richer Descriptions, a Guide to the Human Senses for Christian Speakers and Writers.” Even though he gives scientific information (which you can ignore if you’re not into science), he gives examples in simple box sections throughout the book. Scientists today define nine senses—not just five: smell, taste, touch, hot/cold, pain, hearing, sight, balance, and body awareness. Gary shows how including sensory expressions in your writing makes it come alive. For example, he literally names sounds from A to Z.
Cecil Murphy was another speaker I was blessed to learn about at the writer’s conference in Philly. He says, “Who you are determines what you write.” I bought his book too, which I highly recommend: “Unleash the Writer Within: the Essential Writer’s Companion.” His book is crucial to you as a writer, for he says, “We need to continue improving our writing skills, but in the process, we can’t forget who we are. If we do, our voices become lifeless. The words may sound beautiful, but they won’t express or true selves.”
The third book is indispensable when it comes to actual writing. Every writer needs “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White. Don’t let the small size fool you; it packs a wallop with essential rules of word usage, punctuation and more. A thesaurus is also helpful for expanding vocabulary and adding interest to your writing.
There are good websites that will educate you, such as writetodone.com.Also, Marlene Bagnull, director of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference, offers CD’s of speakers from her conference for only $6.00 at writehisanswer.com. One CD I purchased was by Carrie Turansky titled “Self-Editing – Flipping the Switch.” I took notes on it and spoke about it at my local Christian Writer’s Group, Northern Virginia Christian Writer’s Fellowship. This summer I purchased Bethel TV Writer’s Workshop online, and I look forward to finish watching it soon. There are many resources available for writers, but these few are the ones I have used.
You owe it to yourself to be involved in a good Christian writer’s group. Don’t live near one? Find some other writer friends or acquaintances, and start one!