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2 CRITICAL SKILLS FOR PROFESSIONAL WRITERS

June 29, 2012

Hello everyone. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to my friend Martin Greening. This week we’ve exchanged posts and below is his excellent article.

I’m not the smartest guy in the world. I used to be, when I was a teenager, but as I’ve grown older I have forgotten most of what I learned back then (which isn’t unusual). So when I am trying to learn a new thing, like writing for example, I need to distill it down to its essence. The old K.I.S.S. adage holds very true for me.

My bookshelves are stacked with writing books full of all sorts of information, from writing prompts to character trait lists. I have read or at the very least perused all of them. But the knowledge they contain is vast and can be difficult to get a handle on so I have boiled everything they say down into two critical skills a fledgling writer like myself needs to master:

RELEASE and REVISE.

That’s pretty much it when it comes to writing. Everything else is secondary. The rules of writing I mentioned in this previous post take things a little further, but really, when you’re learning to write you just need to concentrate on these two skills. The others can wait.

So what the heck do Release and Revise mean?

Release

Release is the process of getting words on paper. That’s it. Sounds easy right? For some it is, but for most of us it can be an arduous task. Most people want to be or feel connected to others, but we fear judgement and rejection. These fears poke their heads over our shoulders when we sit down to write and prevent us from getting the words out of our heads and onto the page. We need to find a way to let the thoughts flow from our heads and onto words on the page. How do we do that?

There are as many ideas on how to get words onto the paper as there are writers. Everyone seems to have their own system. The trick is finding what works for you. Some writers get up early each morning and write for a certain period of time or towards a goal of so many words. Other writers try to put themselves into a meditative state before even attempting to put any words on the page. Still other writers start with word clusters for several minutes before transitioning their thought process into actual prose. The methods are endless.

I can tell you what works for me, so far. I get up an hour earlier than I need to and I park myself at my laptop and type until I have reached at least 750 words. Sometimes that takes 10 minutes, many times longer, but I don’t leave that chair until those words are done.

Give it a try. Schedule time to put yourself in the chair to write, do it everyday if you can, give yourself a goal (either time or word count). Soon you will find Release and your words will end up on the page.

Don’t quit writing on a bad day.
– Jerry Cleaver

The Release process:

  1. Is Emotional
  2. Should be Non-Judgemental

Revise

Revise is the process of taking the jumbled mass of emotion that we released onto the page and forming it into a coherent story. This is also called editing and is a must for professional writing (hopefully I’ve edited all the mistakes out of this article so I’m not a hypocrite). Revise means you need to understand how a story works along with proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You don’t need to be an expert, but you do need a solid understanding.

The best places to learn how to revise your work are books on the editing process (two I highly recommend are Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain and Revising Fiction by Kirt Hickman) and critique groups (like the Henderson Writer’s Group). You could also have your work edited by a professional editor, but keep in mind editors like to get paid so you may want to start with the books and groups and work your way into professional editors.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be finished.
– Kevin J. Anderson

The Revise process:

  1. Is Analytical
  2. Should be Judgemental

So there you have it. Release, get the words on the page, then Revise, mold them into a structured story. If you want to be professional writer, you must master those two skills.

I’m still working on it.

How about you?


Martin Greening recently resumed writing after a long hiatus. He is honing his craft while he puts his information technology expertise to use by helping other writers convert their books into electronic versions. Martin is currently working on several short stories along with his first novel, an epic fantasy. To track his progress and learn how he might be able to help you with your book, please visit MartinGreening.com.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    June 29, 2012 3:26 am

    I like this site. I’m coming back. You have said eloquently what I’ve known for ten years. But that’s just it; it took me ten years to figure it out. Release and Revise: I would have paid you a couple grand for those words. I did, actually, to one of those on-line guys who claims they can get you published. I learned from it, though, and here I am, in complete relief that someone knows exactly what I’ve learned over years of trial-and-error. For me, writing occurs in my head: in the shower, walking the dog, or at three in the morning when an idea/dream wakes me. I write the next day, afternoon, before I cook dinner, glasses of red wine. Revising occurs immediately after the released chapter. The release can take fifty minutes; the revising can take three times as long. But it works for me, finally, after years of figuring out what works for me…this, release and revise, works for me.

    • June 30, 2012 12:36 am

      Mike,

      There you go! You can thank Martin for that too. He did an outstanding job on the article. I’ve been doing the same thing for years though I’ve never personally had to make a radical change, just tweaks.

      Thanks for the kind comments!

      Fred

  2. June 29, 2012 3:34 am

    Fred,

    I hate to tell you this but the only book I have on my shelf is “The Elements of Style,” by E.B. White. The rest are music books of every sort and many novels. I also have one on trapping wild animals by Shirley’s grandfather who wrote the book in Indiana after the First World War. I think I’ll have a second printing of the book as I recently read wildlife is making a comeback in that part of the country.

    I had just retired in 1990 and was painting the inside of the house, I hated painting, when I got this idea about a boy who played the bass drum in the band, and his dog who had a tail that looked like a drum stick. He played the bass drum, too. I got down from the ladder and began writing the first of a series of eight about “The Adventures of Nick & Knobby.” After writing 12 children’s stories I wrote my autobiography, “Diary of a Young Musician, Final Days of the Big Band Era.” I had never written in my life and it was something I could conveniently do rather than paint. The walls were never finished. Shirley was very patient.

    I would write approximately three to four hours each morning, then at the end of the day while taking my shower, I would conjure up the next day’s work. The following morning the first thing I would do was edit the previous days work, then write my shower creations. I used the same process the next 20 years. I think cleanliness was my inspiration.

    • June 30, 2012 12:32 am

      Felix,

      Hah! Great story! I used to have several books on writing and I scanned them just to see what was in them but never read a single thing. They sat on the shelves for years until I donated them to my writer’s group. I’ve learned it from experience, conferences and meetings each week. Now here I am doling it out!

      Your writing process worked for you!

      Thanks!

      Fred

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