Carol Brennan King July, 1, 2020

Welcome to our editing class, meeting the first four Wednesdays of July via Zoom. If you would like information on joining us via Zoom, contact Linde Maurer at lmaurer@albright.org or the Abington Community Library, Clarks Summit, PA, 18411.

Since I just took a class on meditation and writing, I opened today’s session with a discussion about the value of meditation. Though it is helpful in many environments, it is a useful tool to help separate the writer from all of those thoughts that seem to stand in the way of getting to the writing.

The material I presented in class is a short-cut to meditation, but it works for me. Here we go:

Meditation: a tool for writers

Take a deep breathe in, and a then a slow exhale. Pay attention to your breathing. Mentally or even physically, put away all of those things that want to distract you. Now, relax your body. Maybe shrug your shoulders or uncross your legs. Roll your head forward and back. Do what works for you to release the tension in your body that you notice. I like to sit back in my desk chair with my hands open. This exercise should take no longer than 5 minutes. But if you feel really wound up, give yourself longer.

I find it helpful for me to use Philippians 4:8 which gives you things to think about or meditate on: Whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, worthy of praise, think on these things.

I chose things that qualify, based on this verse, to think about. For instance, this morning, I thought about all of the things I have to be thankful for. Back when I did this for the first time, using Philippians 4:8 as a guide for meditation, and thinking about the phrase “worthy of praise,” or being thankful and telling God you are, I wrote a poem about thanking God for my body. You can find that over in a section titled Poems. But don’t look today. I am not sure I will get it posted today.

Now to the editing material, C.S. Lewis is a noted author, one of my favorites for making me think. He formulated five writing rules that seemed very appropriate for us to look at in this first class on editing.

Lewis puts his overarching objective for himself as a writer this way:

Write so the reader can understand without guessing. As writers, we must remember that our readers do not know everything we took to the writing. Therefore, they may not get the cliches we could use, the references to things happening in our corner of the world, or the particular slang to which we have become accustomed. So, with your reader in mind, look at your work through the following lenses.

  1. Always try to use the language in a way that you make quite clear what you mean and make sure you sentence could not mean anything else. If you tend to like long sentences, you must be especially careful here. Long sentences can be much harder to understand than they are to write
  2. Always prefer the plain, direct word to the long, vague one. In other words, don’t handicap your reader by ambushing him or her with five syllable words or any word that the ordinary reader might have to look up.
  3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. Don’t make the reader guess. If you mean “More people died,” don’t say “Mortality rose.” The one emphasizes individual people. The second is scarcely more than a statistic. Which one would move you more?
  4. Do not use adjectives which only tell us how you want the reader to feel about the actions or people or setting, even,that you are writing about. Instead of using the word “terrible,” describe it so that the reader will be terrified. Don’t sat delightful, delight the reader when you write what happened.
  5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. We are talking about exaggerating, even unintentionally. For example, don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very.” Otherwise you will have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. Or, “An enormous crowd waited down below,” when it was really only twenty or thirty.

When you are writing, your first and foremost concern should be for your reader. With that in mind, when you edit your work, read it first through the eyes and mind of the reader who just saw your book or article in the library. You knew exactly what you meant when you write those lines, but you will not be there for your reader to ask what you meant.

For more on this topic google 5 Powerful Writing Tips from C. S. Lewis or go to https://medium.com/the-1000-day-mfa/5-powerful-writing-tips=from-c-s-lewis-50479d4189cf

One thought on “Editing: Part 1

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