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.