Thursday, 16 February 2012

Self-Correction for Writers

My daughter bought a horse last year, an 8 year old, 16hh bay Arab.  She's hoping to train him in dressage, and has been taking lessons from one of the scariest women on the planet.  Occasionally I've sat in on the lessons - I say sit, but actually I'm bolt upright and watching my diagonals, such is my obedience to this woman with a dressage whip even though I am neither a horse nor a rider.  

One of the terms the teacher uses is self-correction.  This is when the rider learns to correct themselves.  It's essential because the horse needs training every day, and obviously the teacher can't be there watching at each session.  

I think the concept of self-correction is a useful one for a writer.  As I'm writing this blog post I'm constantly tweaking, choosing a different word, selecting a better verb for example or correcting my grammar, making it better, or clearer, or more effective all the time (I hope).  

It's second nature to me - I've been a professional writer for over twenty years.  If this were my creative writing, rather than a blog post, I'd be doing the same.  And then I'd write a second draft with more self-correction, and then probably a third.  At that point I show it to my outside readers.  

But our first reader is ourselves, and the more we learn to self-correct the easier the transition process will be from idea to page to readable page.  


Philip C James said...

We've all met at social gatherings the person who blocks someone else's inclusion in the conversational circle. Not with malice. They do it unthinkingly, too wrapped up in themselves to notice another's discomforture. Lack of self-correction, and probably self awareness.

I guess writing is conversation at a distance; social discourse with a future social circle and self-correction is making sure your writing is inclusive and conducive to a lively, free-flowing and thought-provoking conversation. Even if it's only within your reader's head. And designed to bring them into the circle...

Shauna said...

I'm so glad you mentioned that you constantly tweak your posts. I find it impossible to write a post, or even an email, without looking through it and changing a word here and there.

I try when writing a first draft not to self-edit (too much!) and to get the story down first before changing hats, but it's a constant battle.

Sarah Duncan said...

Phil - that's a really interesting analogy. I might nick it...

Shauna - oh, I'm always tweaking, I can't bear to let an email go with a typo, and if one slips through I feel guilty about it for ages.

Anonymous said...

Loved this particular post. I'm regularly sending out withering and pointed emails, or writing presentations and papers for work. They always hit the 80/20 rule of "good and done quickly".
When I have the luxury of time for a brief edit, they often become, not a masterpiece - this is work we're talking about - but a much more complete, informative, clear and succinct piece of writing.
(An ex-Trowbridgeite)