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Are You Really Writing?
(part II)

by Terry W. Ervin II


(check out part one of Are You Really Writing to read Terry's tips on how to improve your odds of finishing what you start)

Rewriting - Editing, for most, is a necessary evil. Rewording, patching holes in plot lines, ensuring character consistency, eliminating passive sentences and unnecessary words, nailing typos, and inserting proper punctuation are all part of the editing process. Few first drafts could stand without a bit of a rewrite. However, rewriting can become an obsession, or an excuse to avoid submitting a work. I’ve met writers that have been rewriting the first three chapters of their novels for two or more years. They have yet to attempt chapter four or beyond. Granted, the standard first three chapters submitted to agents and editors must be as near perfect as possible. There is no argument that the final draft must be the absolute best a writer can produce. But, there must be a completed first draft before there can be a final draft. Continually rewriting a novel and never submitting it is not a productive use of writing time.

Reading - Reading is a waste of time? Blasphemy, right? It depends on the purpose for reading and how a writer reads. Reading for enjoyment is perfectly fine, but it should not be confused with furthering one’s writing. If one reads fiction, actively taking note of sentence and plot structure, observing characterization techniques employed, paying attention to pace and description, and carefully considering what aspects of the novel made it an enjoyable experience should be part of the experience.  Similar evaluative considerations should be employed while reading non-fiction. If a writer does not implement such efforts, the time spent reading does little to improve writing or further writing projects.

Researching facts and theories, markets, or viewing author websites for information and ideas (among other activities) can further a writer’s efforts.  But endless research that goes beyond what is necessary for a novel’s contents, and seeking markets for writing projects never started or finished, waste precious writing time. Evaluating author websites for format and inspiration while never completing projects for submission, and thus securing the need for a presence on the internet, may be interesting but is not an efficient use of writing time.

Conferences - Writers conferences are great places to meet published authors, established agents, and working editors. They are places to network, meet fellow writers, learn about the business and the craft of writing, and get questions germane to a particular writing project answered. However, not only do conferences consume weekends and time off work, they also cost money--sometimes large sums of it.

A writer that attends a conference as a passive observer instead of an active participant may as well have stayed home. Except for a few interesting twists or anecdotes, little can be learned at a conference that cannot be gleaned through careful study of well-researched books (and websites) on markets, agents, and writing. The attending writer must step forward and engage. Ask questions and take notes. Shake hands and meet people. Exchange business cards and, after it is all over, follow-up. If a writer doesn’t, they have wasted both time and money.

Waiting - A writer completes a novel. After careful research he submits it to an editor or agent. What do to next? A writer completes a short story and submits to a promising market. What to do next? Write. Don’t edit what has been completed or dream about what could happen. Start a new project. Months later, whether rejected or accepted, the writer will have another work to submit. Sitting idle, waiting to see if a submission was good enough, is wasting precious writing time.


Considering the multitude of everyday obligations and commitments writers struggle to balance, when adding writing and related activities to the mix, one should be sure that the time spent in such activities is focused and truly furthering the writer’s goals. If not, a writer may be making needless sacrifices while fooling himself into believing that he is engaged in legitimate writing activities—actually writing.


If you have any comments on this article or observations you’d like to share, send me an email (but not too long, we don’t want to waste time). I can be reached at: terry@granitetowers.com

Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is a frequent contributor to Fiction Factor and his fiction has appeared a number of places, including The Sword Review, Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and MindFlights.

When Terry isn’t writing or enjoying time with his family, he can be found in his basement raising turtles. To contact Terry or to learn more about his writing endeavors and recommended markets (among other things), visit his website at:


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