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The Simmering Part of the Creative Process

The “simmering” step of writing and editing is essential to high quality content. Over the years of editing many different writers and producing my own content, I have found that the most overlooked parts of the process are the thinking and simmering stages. The creative process tends toward mediocre when rushed or pushed.

1. Thinking time. My best writing comes after I have had time to ponder a topic. Often I will put a block of time on my calendar a week before an article is due. This gives me time to clarify the topic, mull over approaches, talk to other people, consult experts and think about the audience. This warm up time results in a cleaner first draft.

2. Get it down. The first draft isn’t the place to stress over word count or finesse. Start writing and get the big idea and take away down clearly. Often this draft is longer than necessary and includes some extra ideas or rabbit trails.

3. Let it sit. Overnight is preferable. If I have to turn writing around the same day, a stroll around the office, slowly sipping a cup of tea or switching to other tasks for an hour can give some objective distance from the content.

4. Read it critically. Is the big idea and take away clear? Is there a strong beginning? Is there extraneous material? Pay attention to word count. Edit ruthlessly. Just because I love all my words doesn’t mean that they are all memorable for my reader.

5. Let it sit again. The next revisions will be much better if I again get some distance from my work.

6. Go through one more time. Make every word count. Pay attention to construction, clarity, grammar, voice, tense.  Think about the reader. How will they process what I am writing?

7. Give it to an editor and expect revisions. They are not as wed to my precious words as I am and they hold an overall vision and perspective that I cannot see. Trust them and follow their lead in revisions.

When I receive content from writers who stopped at step #2, I make suggestions and send it back. My readers deserve more time and thought than just a few ideas typed into a file. They deserve finely crafted content. And that takes simmering time, thought, energy and skill, by both writers and editors.

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1 Comment

  1. Shelly Radic

     /  November 13, 2013

    Matt, My friend and former coworker/editor writes this. This one is basic but always good to remember.

    Reply

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