Posted by: Jodi | April 15, 2010

Asking the “Write” Questions

I’m up to my eyeballs in editing and revision. As much as I would like to say things are going smoothly; the truth is, the process is dragging me through the mud. While writing the rough draft I didn’t worry about the errors; my goal was to get the skeleton out on paper.  During that phase I was only slowed by my imagination and the occasional plot pitfall.

Now,  I have to make the work stand on its own.  Every statement, every phrase, and every thought has to be justified and make sense to the reader.   The voice must be consistent, the flow smooth.  The whole package has to be good.

This means I spend a great deal more time staring at Mr. Monitor.  If I keep this up I’ll give the poor thing a complex.

Perhaps the easiest way of finding where a piece of writing can improve, besides getting someone to read it and give feedback, is by asking yourself questions.  Say in your piece, the protagonist walks into his apartment and punches his roommate in the face.  A chain of “write” questions might run like this:

Why did he punch his roommate?

Because he was angry.

How did you show he was angry?

Um, he punched his roommate…

Is there any other way you can show he is angry?

Maybe I should add some facial expressions or hand gestures.

And on and on… etc.

Why did it happen? How did it affect the lead character?  Does it contribute to the story?  Does the reader clearly know who is doing what at any given moment?

This exercise works best when spoken out loud.  You use a different part of the brain to listen than you do to think.  It’s an effective way of catching awkward phrases and missing words.   It is also an effective way to appear crazy so be cautious where you choose to talk to your piece of writing.

Until next time, happy writing!

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Responses

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Reading aloud uses a different set of mental muscles and allows you to “hear” issues you would miss with a sight-read.

    • I got the idea after our reading session, so you can take credit for this post. Go ahead, take a bow!

  2. I often find that my critical eye actually dissipates upon further and further editing. Laziness or lack of discipline? Not likely. Weariness after going over the story again and again? More than likely. At what point do you lose the ability to judge and determine functional and successful writing? Someone else needs to see it from a fresh perspective. Reading aloud will make you hear the words in sequence, the structure, the music of it. But it still needs a fresh set of eyes and ears. To get over that hurdle.

    • Well said. The longer I stay with my head down in the editing trenches the harder it is to “see” the big picture. A fresh pair of eyes works wonders to take a piece to the next level. Even better if you can find a trusted stranger to do it, gotta love the internet for that!

  3. Great suggestion, Jo!

    I’m posting the link to this for my writer friends on FB.

  4. Ah the dreadful revision process… I’m almost done with my first draft and I’m doing exactly what you’ve done, I’m just trying to get the skeleton on the paper and it is filled with flaws so I suppose a good deal of “questioning” is upon me! 🙂

    • Keep at it, one step at a time and you’ll get it!

  5. […] Asking the “Write” Questions: How to use questions to add depth to your writing […]


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