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  • David Richardson

Solar Eclipse – A Lesson for Writers

Tomorrow’s partial solar eclipse – where part of the sun’s visible disc becomes unseeable, teaches writers a great lesson: less is more.

Think about it. How many times would you put a date in your diary to go outside and look at the sun? (…with your eyes properly protected of course!) It’s only because tomorrow’s solar eclipse is a unique event that you would do it.

Yes, less is definitely more! The lesson for writers is to always remember that editing is an integral part of the writing process. It’s vital in making your writing the best it can be.

Here are three tips we can learn from the solar eclipse.

Remember – Editing Is Part of Writing

Solar eclipses are predictable, they’re in the timetable. So, you need to schedule time for editing, it is part of the process. Don’t view it as chore or try and avoid it. You must build time into your writing activity for rereading and editing.

When I have a deadline for a newspaper piece, I always try and get it completed the day before. Then after sleeping on it, I can approach the reading and editing with a fresh mind. I’m encouraged to do it, because I know my writing will be better for it.

Read Your Writing Aloud

Believing that a section of the sun has gone missing during an eclipse, is an illusion. As a writer, when you read your words on the page to yourself, what you hear is the voice in your head that put those words there.

But, when you read the words out loud, what you hear is what your readers will read. There is a difference.

Reading your writing out loud means that you’ll spot the clunky sentences, the superfluous words, the repetitions and also spot the misspellings too. Changing the way you interact with your writing will help you see the areas that can be improved.

For Proofreading – Read Backwards

Backwards? Not literally. But, just as the spectacle of a solar eclipse goes against the usual flow of expectation, reading our writing from the last sentence to the first also breaks up the usual flow.

How to do it? Start with the last sentence of the page first. Read that from first word until last, then go up to the previous sentence, read that, then up again until you get to the top.

This will break up the normal way we read so that any errors you’ve made when writing will jump at you right off the page, begging to be corrected. Sounds a little crazy, but try it.

Solar Eclipse – A Lesson Well Learnt

If you’re able to, enjoy tomorrow’s partial eclipse of the sun. And remember, that just as less is more in nature, so less is more in writing.

Try this… an activity I do with my creative writing classes.

Take a piece of writing, around 100 words and halve the number. Yes, that’s what I’m asking you to do – edit down 100 words to 50.

It seems a daunting thing to achieve, and to be truthful, it is. But, it will help you focus on the waffle and remove it and also encourage you to select only the words that are truly necessary. Be ruthless! Being able to ‘write tight’ is a great skill to develop, and one that your future readers will always appreciate.

For more information on the eclipse, go to the BBC Sky At Night Magazine webpage:

If you would like personal help with your writing, please contact me:

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