The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Second Time Around

One of the most useful tools in a writer’s arsenal is a fresh pair of eyes. Another useful thing is the ability to spot a mixed metaphor; you don’t keep tools in an arsenal, you keep weapons. I’ll start again.

One of the most useful tools in a writer’s toolshed is a fresh pair of eyes. You can become too close to something you’ve written, become blinkered to its faults. Your brain is automatically correcting typos and the imaginative processes behind the work are still ticking away, filling in plot-holes and filling out characterisation. It’s hard to be objective because you’re still seeing the story as you imagined it, not the script or prose tapped out by your fingers.

Joe Orton used to keep his plays under his bed for six months to ‘mature’. Well, I think that’s a fact, though when I just looked it up on the internet the only source for it was, er, me. But I’m sure I heard it somewhere. The point being that most of the time, what with deadlines, you’re not often given the chance to leave a piece of work and come back at it with a fresh perspective. If you can, that’s ideal, because whenever I look over stuff I wrote, say, three months ago, its weakness become obvious and I get to laugh at my jokes all over again.

Failing that, you need other people to read things for you – people who can be constructive, people who know what is useful to guide a writer and what’s not. In telly, it’s a job, they’re called script editors.

And failing that, my tip is this – change the text so it reads differently. Change the font. Change the font size. Print it out. Believe me, it can be a big help.

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