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Tools of the Trade

5-things

Every writer must have a reliable writing arsenal under their belt; a set of weapons to take down the enemy in the field of battle. I have found, however, that many aspiring writers carry a selection of powerful weapons but are unable to use them. If they do, they use them at their lowest potential.

Well that’s how I felt anyway. I ran around swinging sword and shield only to come out battered and bruised with no idea why. That is until a veteran warrior brought spoils from the war, a manual for the unseasoned warrior. She gave me On Writing Well by William Zinsser (Amazon link). My eyes were opened.

I went to a school where I spoke English as my first language. In fact to this day I think and write only in English, while slipping into vernacular whenever the situation calls for it. Or I’m trying to impress my fellow Tswana/Zulu speaking counterparts. Nevertheless, I believed I had a firm grasp of the English language. Editing was a skill I thought I was adept in, like a novice swordsman who knows only how to swing a sword. It was only when thrust into the battlefield that this foolishness became evident.

“Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. That idea is hard to accept. We all have an emotional equity in our first draft; we can’t believe that it wasn’t born perfect. But the odds are close to 100 percent that it wasn’t.” ~ William Zinsser

Now, reading my writing in light of this new knowledge has been a cringe-worthy experience. That’s a decade of writing, half of it spent writing “professionally”. What bothers me most is the fact that I was not aware of the amateur mistakes I was making. Sure I used words correctly. I put my apostrophes in the right place. I could use punctuation marks correctly. But these were merely the hilt of a Camelot-worthy broadsword.

I have read a little over eighty pages of this +300 word book and already see an improvement in my writing. I now know what to look for when editing my work. Granted, this book is for writing non-fiction pieces but its principles are applicable across the board. I feel like an experienced gamer who finally gets over his pride and plays through the tutorial. The warrior who turns to a master to better their skill. A writer able to properly wield his tools of the trade.

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About Nthato Morakabi

Nthato Morakabi is a South African published author. He has short stories appearing in both international and local anthologies, and has published his first book, Beneath the Wax, which opens his three-part novella series "Wax". He is an avid reader, blogger and writer.

4 responses »

  1. The idea that rewriting is where the excellence happens appeals to me… My problem has been I felt I edited my work to death, whittled my trunk down to a stick. I hear you on finding the mistakes. I recently got a schooling in that from a beta reader who pointed out the many ways I went wrong. Not grammar, style. Nice post.

    Reply
    • Thanks Kelly, I’m glad you liked the post.

      As for whittling down the trunk to a stick, at times it is necessary because carrying a trunk around can be a heavy experience. At the same time, a trunk might be exactly what your writing should be. It’s a fine balance between style and being excessive.

      Reply
  2. But my stuff is born perfect…All right maybe it isn’t. Ok, there is no chance it is perfect. Bring me the book when you are done.

    Reply

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