Saturday, December 19, 2009

Read What You Write

In order to be a good writer, I had to start reading like one. I have two reading modes–one for pleasure and information and the other for writing technique. In the first, I sit at my desk or in a comfy chair and read for entertainment or knowledge without paying much attention to how the writer wrote the text. But in the second, I read for technique, carefully paying attention to structure, grammar, and English usage.

Many writers never read their work once they finish it. In fact, too many beginning writers never look at what they write beyond their first draft. Writing takes on a life of its own and only after it has “settled” a bit can I really see the problems and the mistakes.

Writing on a computer has lots of advantages, but the one big disadvantage is that I find myself being hypnotized by the print on the screen–so much so, that I often don’t see simple mistakes right in front of me. To avoid this problem, I print out each draft of what I write–yea, I know it isn’t good for the trees–and put it aside to read later. Later can be the next hour, the next few hours, or the next day. Just the act of getting away from that particular piece of writing helps me to get a new perspective on it. Also, I usually read it somewhere else, say in that comfy chair with a nice cup of coffee, just the way I would read any other material.

In this process, my mind forgets for a while what I wrote and sees it as if it’s something new. This, alone, helps me to see the flaws in my writing, so that I can act as my own editor. In effect, I’m not only reading it as a reader but also reading it as a writer. 

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