Whatever you think of his stories, Stephen King knows how to write a better story than most.
I haven’t read a Stephen King book for more than 20 years. He thought his social agenda – an inaccurate one – was more important than telling stories. I used to appreciate the way Stephen King crafted stories. I often wasn’t a fan of the subject matter but I respected his story telling. He could make you feel like an actual spectator at any scene.
Around 2000, Stephen King wrote a non-fiction book about writing. It’s called On Writing.
On Writing is superb for any and all writers, including writers of Facebook posts, writers of blog articles, and writers of books.
Edited and Proofing, Oh My!
Proofing your own writing is difficult. You’re too close to the writing. When we read our own writing soon after we write it, we have the tendency to gloss over mistakes.
Typos don’t make or break writing careers. As a matter of fact, concentrating on typos too early in writing a draft often harms your writing.
Certainly, typos happen to anybody and no writer excuses them – especially not me. A good writer wants to write perfect copy every time.
Ben Settle’s and Stephen King’s Tip
In On Writing, Stephen King explains one way to avoid typos: put your first draft away for a few months before proofing and making changes to it. Then put that away for a month or two before doing the next round.
I think that’s ridiculous! Now there is no way I can question King’s success. My 3 million-plus titles sold pale in comparison to his sales numbers.
Note: I also can’t question a most prolific writing friend of mine, Ben Settle, who uses this method for improving his novels. Man, those are great novels! He also writes amazing non-fiction. I wish I could write both as well as Ben does.
To me, the ridiculous time frame of months between drafts is unrealistic. I can see why Ben does it with his novels. But for the kind of writing I do, and the kind of writing that many of my friends do, there’s no way to wait months between draft and publication. The speed at which things move today due to our electronic world doesn’t allow me that kind of leeway.
One answer is to hire an Editor immediately but I’m sort of mixing things up here. Because there’s a difference between Copy Editing – editing writing to get the spelling, grammar, and flow correct – and the self-editing process where you run through your own writing several times to hone what you say and how you say it.
When you need to take a first draft and turn it into a polished second draft, then do the same waiting period for that draft, and perhaps once again, until you make enough passes to have what you consider a final product, the “waiting a few months” will distance you from your writing and enable you to be more unbiased when you edit the previous draft.
But time just doesn’t make that a reality for most writing. We all want our writing up for consumption and possibly sale faster than that process allows.
I have a better way for you to consider.
Reading It Again and Out Loud to Write Better
When I finish writing a post or draft, and I need to finalize the writing as quickly as possible, I find that I almost always fix both my copy editing mistakes as well as my writing flow and wording by reading the writing aloud. The reverse is true; when I don’t take time to read my writing aloud, friends have to tell me about typos.
Note: I appreciate that correction! I despise typos! Please, always let me know when you see something wrong with my writing. I’ll make it easier… I won’t read this post aloud! That alone should offer you some fodder. But seriously, I always want to know if something needs fixing. I even want to know which mistakes I’ve made in this post about writing better without mistakes.
Reading your own writing out loud, even doing so right after you write something, forces you to consider each and every word. We tend to skip over our own words and phrases, especially when we just penned them. Reading the words out loud has the surprising ability to change the way your own writing sounds and this can improve what you write tremendously.
Note: Ben likes to stack his writing advantages. For his novels, he not only puts each draft away for a while before editing that draft, he will also read each version out loud to hear where he wants to change tone and to locate typos he hadn’t spotted by simply reading his writing. In doing so, I suspect Ben’s going to see his novels on the big screen some day in the future.
I find when I write, I think something “sounds” a certain way. But when I read it out loud, I learn sometimes it doesn’t have the sound or feel I expected it to have. I’m forced to re-word some phrase so it successfully sounds the way I intended it to sound.
Write Even Better… You Computer Can Read It
I published this tip many months ago, but it fits nicely here.
If you believe what I wrote above, this reduces your work when you follow Ben’s, Stephen King’s, and my advice: Speak Your Words!