Write like a Turtle, Edit like a Fox

Courtesy of http://fadingamericans.wordpress.com/featured-animals/green-sea-turtle/

The sea turtle, box turtles and large land turtles take their time getting somewhere, but they choose different paths, have a hard shell and get where they’re going.


Courtesy of http://www.frmheadtotoe.com/2012/10/fox-halloween-tutorial.html

The fox watches, waits and listens. Those are essential to editing. When you think you’re ready to send a piece out, step back into the grass and hear your story read out loud again.

Turtles are born with hard shells.

Most writers are not.

With time you build one. If not, you quit. Sure, there are still critiques that hurt to hear, but we need them said.

I need them said.

Turtles also move slow to get where they’re going.

Every writer, journalist and author sets out on a different path. Many writers have deadlines. I lived by deadlines at one time, and now I set them for creative work.

That does not mean you look for the short cuts.

Today, I smiled when I completed writing my longest story to date, 22 pages, When Tomorrow Comes. I began writing the story sometime between July and October 2011.

You say: Come on, Rebecca, it’s 2013 and that’s only twenty-two pages.

I say: Yeah, but it took a long time to figure out where the story was heading.

I knew I had a story about a mother who lost her husband and job as a financial advisor in the city. She lost her house, and her popular teenage daughter lost her prominent place at a private school. She attended a public school with a two-star rating online.

Those ideas took time to develop and unfold. Only in the last five months has the story really molded into what I wanted, and I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Sometimes I like to slow down and read over the last couple of paragraphs before I write again. Scientists do not want to mess up formulas and most that I’ve observed – on television – pour their solutions slowly into another container.

If the words invite you dance, then let them lead. Take slow steps. Watch the words pour on the page.

When I completed my story today, I felt happy. I have written many stories I am not happy with or were for the pure purpose of self-help during tough times. I never planned to use them for anything.

As I wrote back and forth between Catherine, the mom, and Tara, the daughter, I could not stop.

I must admit the story is not a first draft. It’s more like a sixth because I’ve edited it many times before I began writing the next section. Yes, I edit stories before I complete them, but every author is different. I do the same with my Elliot McSwean  stories.

In my approach to editing, I look like a fox.

  1. Watch

    Read through one paragraph or page at a time. Soak it in. Take in the scene.

  1. Poke your ears up.

    Listen. Read your work out loud. Then listen to someone else or a computer voice read it back to you. I use both of these techniques, which have helped me improve my self-editing.

  1. Slow Approach

    Have you watched an Arctic fox sneak up on a rabbit? A good hunter approaches its prey that never hears it coming.

    Be that way in your editing.

    As proud as I am of the fact I completed writing my story today, I know I will go back and slash out words and dialogue that just does not work.

    If you’re good, those unnecessary words and accidental punctuation won’t hear your backspace or return button go click-click-gone.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Thank you again to all of my readers who have stuck with me even though I haven’t stuck to my schedule. My mom is doing better and she is out of the hospital.

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12 thoughts on “Write like a Turtle, Edit like a Fox

  1. Vikki Thompson April 14, 2013 at 4:31 AM Reply

    I’m glad to hear your mums doing better honey xx

    • rtd14 April 14, 2013 at 7:14 AM Reply

      Thank you, Vikki!

  2. Rebecca Bradley April 14, 2013 at 4:32 AM Reply

    We do all write so differently and what works for one would not work for another. Congratulations on completing your story. And I’m glad your Mom is doing better.

    • rtd14 April 14, 2013 at 7:16 AM Reply

      Thank you, Rebecca! I appreciate the support for Mom and as a writer! I think it is fascinating to talk to other writers because we do respond in different ways to what inspires us and when we write. I appreciate your comment! ~ Rebecca

  3. lensandpensbysally April 14, 2013 at 9:21 AM Reply

    Enjoyed your commentary. I do so understand that it took years to complete the story. Most importantly, it conveys with true essence your intentions. Each of us have to find the method that works for us. Good job.

    • rtd14 April 14, 2013 at 10:26 AM Reply

      I have two long ongoing projects. One is a book manuscript and the other is a connected story collection. Stories that stand on their own take me longer than some of my chapters or connected stories, especially when I write about people affected by the economy. Thank you for your comment, Sally. I am happy you enjoyed it. ~ Rebecca

  4. localtravelerns April 14, 2013 at 11:39 AM Reply

    valuable advice for all writers!

  5. GJ Scobie April 16, 2013 at 8:34 AM Reply

    Good to hear about how you write and are comfortable with it. Although I’m writing very quickly right now, I spent a lot of time last year simply thinking over the story rather than commit words to the page. The original idea dates from a comment made to me in 2011. Sometimes it just takes time :-)

  6. Pete Denton April 20, 2013 at 6:44 AM Reply

    Good advice. Some people do seem to naturally write fast and edit faster. It’s good to know we don’t all work the same way and different things work for different people. Happy editing :)

    • rtd14 April 20, 2013 at 8:00 AM Reply

      I write slow. I edit probably more often than I write something new. It just takes me time. I began a new story after I finished the one I wrote last week, but I had written the idea for the story two years ago. :) ~ Rebecca

      • Pete Denton April 20, 2013 at 1:55 PM

        Good to let the story percolate a little :)

  7. Pace. Set. Go. | A Word or More June 17, 2014 at 7:03 AM Reply

    […] you’ve read my blog before you know I have a funny saying: Write like a turtle and edit like a fox. Focusing on the turtle part, I take my time writing. I have moved slower, I guess, because I enjoy […]

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