I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because even though I’m a freelance editor and can inform everyone else what they’re doing wrong, I have a hard time seeing ANY of my mistakes. (Do I make mistakes?)
I write to a lot of deadlines. And a lot of these articles are not checked by anyone but me. I don’t have the advantage of my fabulous critique group, The Lit Ladies, and many of these articles/posts are online as soon as I press PUBLISH. Sometimes, when I write to deadline, it’s for a print publication, and I do have an editor looking over my work before my words appear in public. But I don’t want a) the editor to think I have no idea what I’m doing with sloppy copy or b) fire me. So, I’ve developed a system for writing to deadline that I TRY to use each time I’m writing a blog post or my newspaper book review column. Here’s what I do:
1. Think about what I’m writing BEFORE I sit down to the computer. Before I start typing, I want to have a clear idea of what I’m writing about. This helps me use my time at the computer wisely and efficiently. If I already know what I want to write and why I want to write it, the words come out better. I can also think about it while playing with my kids.
2. Write a rough draft. And I mean ROUGH. My first draft is often something I wouldn’t even want to show my 12-year-old stepson. It’s getting my thoughts down without going back and re-reading. This method actually works because in order to revise and polish to make my work pretty, I have to have a rough draft on paper or the computer screen. I always breathe a sigh of relief when that first draft is finished. Now the fun begins.
3. Step away from the computer. It’s necessary to give myself a little distance if I can afford the time, before I revise. This could be as simple as taking the dog outside to do his business, reading a book to my daughter, or going to bed and waking up an hour before the post should be up. I try to give myself as much time as possible, but this isn’t always a reality. Any time getting up and moving around to think about something else helps when revising.
4. Revise and polish the article. In this step, I usually read the article several times and fix words and sentences. I check for repeated words and phrases and double check any facts included. I read my article out loud, unless I’m at Starbucks. I spell check, and now hope to add a Grammarly check to this step, too. What a fantastic tool for someone who writes to deadline a lot! I downloaded the program right to Microsoft Word.
5. Read the article through from beginning to end without changing a word. Once I do this, I know my article is ready to post or to send in. I honestly stop tweaking. You can do it, too.
Do you have any tips to share for writing to deadline that I haven’t covered here?