There’s no way around it; writing is hard work.
I think back to my few years in management consulting in Ottawa from late 1989 to early 1992. I worked on some twenty projects and wrote those twenty reports. They were not fluffy little recommendations: “oh, I think you should do this. Yup, that might work.” No, these were 50 to 100 pages of fact, observation, discussion, and recommendation. They were followed by presentation and round table discussion with the clients. One of them was published in the 1991 Auditor General of Canada’s Annual Report. A man was fired over that one — good for him as he landed a nice position with a large IT company for his creativity. A report like this needed to be bullet proof. It needed to be close to perfect.
We did not write these reports alone. I did most of the work on my projects, so I did most of the writing. Others did the same for their projects. The firm of 25 consultants then helped me finish it off. A group of four to six volunteers — people with not much on their plate — would meet for a day in a board room. We’d read through every line and they would question me on every fact. If there was something they didn’t like about my story, they’d question it. “This sentence is weak” or “the facts don’t support your conclusion” or some other issue was to be expected, always. I needed to go into these sessions prepared, and there was always a partner or senior manager participating which added to the pressure.
We did excellent work, but let me tell you: it was hard work. I put in a lot of hours. I learned a lot about writing and editing.
My writing now is also hard work. Words that engage peoples’ minds are just as important as words that get people fired.
We had a saying at that firm: “the written word is called a medium; because that is what it is.”
We also used a Gunning-Fog index type of score. We wanted a grade (level) 8 score. I remember one time a first draft was a grade 12, and I didn’t know how to get it down. I decided to do what we did in our meetings: I went through every sentence and made sure it was simple and to the point. I got my grade (level) 8 through hard work. My writing up to this point in my blog is 5.1 per an online tool I found. http://textalyser.net/index.php?lang=en#analysis
I analyzed the first chapter of my current novel. My score is 6.3, and the tool suggests 6 is easy to read. I agree with that score, and one of the things I struggle with in writing fiction is not writing too simply. Most writers break up compound sentences; while I often need to combine simple sentences into compunded versions, and of course I don’t want it to sound forced.
I love showing rather than telling. *smirk*
I test my writing once a month at my writing club. Six to eight of us amateur writers get together for a Saturday brunch, and we share our work. This is a great test. When something doesn’t work, it stands out in my ear. I’ve actually stopped and said “blagh” when I’ve written something poorly, something I was sure was bullet-proof, and sometimes I’ll re-word things on the fly. Reading out loud and listening to the words is a great exercise for flushing out problems.
But it’s hard work. I currently have 100,518 words to read to myself out loud. Good luck with that, John.
Usually what I do is once I’m happy with a scene, I’ll set it aside for a day or many, then read it for enjoyment. I sit back, sip my coffee, and even mouth the words. It’s not easy to read out loud at five in the morning in a sleeping house, especially for an introvert. But you need to test the rythms and flow. Almost always there’s at least one sentence that was garbled by too much editing. My brain knew what I wanted, but my fingers didn’t. Or all those reconstructions just didn’t work. Or an important point wasn’t made. Or timing was wrong. Or that just doesn’t belong in the story. Or it adds no value.
And that leads us back into grinding out prose which later won’t read well. It’s a never ending circle.
It’s hard work!
*only 56,220 words left to edit. Then I will read it through. Then I will let some readers at it..