Monday, February 08, 2010

weekly writing coach: backwards, 4 ways

Too many writers try to begin at the beginning, when there's a real case to be made for starting at the end and working your way backwards.  It's a technique that helps you see your writing differently, and it works well for these writing tasks:
  • Getting started:  Some writers get too anxious over crafting a strong start, when the rest of the text--those obligatory paragraphs, or lists of details already known, or concluding remarks--could be done first.  If starting a piece of writing proves daunting, or you want to get the basics done quickly, start at the end.
  • Shaking up your style:  You also may want to shake up your style by starting with the last paragraph and working your way backwards, for a new view of your writing patterns. Yes, this will slow you down, enough for you to realize what you do over and over, from a different vantage point.
  • Proofreading:  My time-honored standby is to read every word from the end to the start.  Proofing backwards forces you to consider each word as a unit and helps you avoid skimming.
  • Editing to catch variety and repetition:  Want to make sure sentence lengths are varied within a paragraph, or paragraph lengths are switched up throughout the text? Look at them back-to-front.  While you're at it, you may be able to pick up on repetitive usage more readily.

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