If at first you don’t succeed, start again

wastebasketNot everything you write is worth your reader’s reading.

Most writers, having toiled over a piece of prose, are reluctant to admit that, sometimes, what they have written is simply not good enough.  Perhaps it doesn’t say what they need it to say.  Or perhaps it doesn’t say it very clearly or concisely.

But the writer has already invested time and effort in this piece of sub-standard communication.  She has written it; she has reviewed it; she has tweaked it (often several times); and now time is running out.  The deadline that had once seemed comfortably distant is now scarily close.

What to do?

In my experience there are only two things worth trying.  The first is to get someone who hasn’t been involved in the writing or tweaking to review it.  Sometime a fresh pair of eyes will be able to quickly spot what’s right and what’s wrong.  And, hopefully, what’s wrong can be quickly put right.

The second option is to start again with a clean sheet of paper.  Unfortunately, many writers are reluctant to consider this second option.  But, in my experience, the sooner you start again the better.  And it does need to be a clean sheet of paper.  Don’t try and work over the old version.  Don’t try to save what you thought were ‘the good bits’.  That’ll just take you back into the unsuccessful past.

Sometimes, as Isaac Bashevis Singer once observed: ‘the wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.’

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