Today is a Great Day to (re)Write

Steve
Laube
, a literary agent and president of The Steve Laube Agency, has
been in the book industry for over 31 years, first as a bookstore manager where
he was awarded the National Store of the Year by CBA. He then spent over a
decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year in
2002. He later became an agent and has represented over 700 new books and was
named Agent of the Year by ACFW. His office is in Phoenix, Arizona. The following blog post is shared by permission from the
Steve Laube Agency blog
James Michener, the bestselling novelist, once
said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” And today is
your day to follow suit.
No one knows your work or what you are trying to
accomplish better than you. In that sense you can be your own best editor.
In a 1958 interview with The
Paris Review
Ernest Hemingway was asked,
“How much rewriting do you do?”
Hemingway replied, “It depends. I rewrote the
ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was
satisfied.”
The stunned interviewer asked, “Was there some
technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?”
Hemingway said simply, “Getting the words right.”
Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory
, said, “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the
first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred
and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is
essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.”
It is the same for both fiction and non-fiction
since the principles are similar.
Overall Structure
Does your book have a natural flow? Do things
build toward a goal or do they flit about like a confused rabbit?
Recently I heard from a number of professionals
who have started having someone else read their work-in-progress out loud. This
is better than reading it out loud yourself because an objective read could but
the wrong emphasis on the wrong word and change the meaning of the paragraph.
Could you rearrange things better? Recently I
suggested a client remove three chapters from their non-fiction proposal to
bring the total to 13. Thirteen weeks equals a typical quarter of a year which
fits many small group and curriculum requirements.
Consider “numbers” when structuring something
like a devotional. 365 days. 90 days. 60 days. 31 days. All work. But remember
that 40 days is the number of days in Lent. But having something with 112
readings doesn’t add any sort of marketing hook to the project.
Word Choices
Look for repetitive words of pet phrases.
Recently I noticed a client’s proposal talked about the number of years they
had been doing something in consecutive chapters. Most likely the repetitive
sentence crept in during some previous cuts and text rearrangement, but when I
read it the first time the information jumped out as being completely
unnecessary.
Years ago I worked with a great writer who loved
to use the word “very.” I crossed nearly every instance of the word. After
sending him the manuscript I received an email with the word “very” repeated
500 hundreds times. He said he was trying to get them out of his system.
In a recent interview with The New York Times Magazine, captured on YouTube,
comedian Jerry Seinfeld discussed how he can spend up to two years developing a
joke. No matter what you think of him as a comedian you must admire this
attention to craft. The seeming simplicity of finding the right “funny” word
consumes his creative process.
One of my favorite tools for word choice is The
Synonym Finder
by J.I. Rodale (the hardcover edition). Often looking for
the right word spurs new inspiration.
Today is Your Day
It is quite possible to tinker with something
until it no longer works. But today release that fear and tinker away. Insert a
different anecdote into your presentation. Try a different opening to your
story. Give yourself a few hours of dedicated revision.

What are your favorite methods for effective
self-editing?