The clock’s ticking away and the August 31st writing competition deadline for Hysteria 2014 is approaching fast. If you’ve already got something down on paper now is the time to start editing. Hemingway said write drunk and edit sober. In other words, after the passion and fire that comes with creativity you have to look at your work with a cool, dispassionate eyes – almost as if someone else had written it.
Changing the appearance of your poem or short story can enhance that affect. Change the font – if you tend to use Ariel it can be quite startling to see your words in Times New Roman. Courier has the appearance of an old fashioned typewriter and will give your manuscript an instant 1960s make over. Short story writers can also alter the page format. Change the paper from portrait to landscape and insert two columns – it will now look like a page from a book.
Next read your entry aloud. Any phrase you stumble over needs revision – it’s a sure sign that something isn’t working.
Also ask yourself if the story really hangs together. What do your character (s) want and how do they try to get it? Do they succeed? Are there too many minor characters? Are they all absolutely necessary to the plot?
Did you start in the right place? The great American author Kurt Vonnegut says that you should start your story as near the end as possible. How far could you push it?
If your opening sets the scene and introduces the characters be brutal and cut it. Trust your readers to follow if you dive right in – you can always fill in the back story later.
What’s the theme of your story or poem? For example if you’ve written about a group of friends the theme could be loyalty or suspicion. Once you’ve worked out what your theme is look at ways of enhancing it (and creating the right atmosphere) through your use of language.
Read every sentence carefully. Cut out anything that smacks of a worn out cliché. I also suggest you discard double adjectives. You know the kind of thing: the helpful and pleasant man, the warm, yellow sun…trust me, adjectives don’t get lonely. They don’t need to travel around in pairs.
Finally if you can cut a word, cut it. Note the word can – I’m not trying to dictate your style and if the words add something in your oinion leave it in. But be aware of the dangers of flabby writing and saying the same thing twice in two different ways.
After you’ve done all that you need to come up with a title that intrigues and then start on copy editing, checking that every there and their is in the right place.
Good luck (and don’t forget to submit in good time !)
Bridget has just finished editing a creative writing anthology produced by her students. Dancing With Words is available on Amazon at £7.99 and every penny they make will to the hospice serving Brighton and Hove. You can read more about it on her blog