Writers On Writing / Pamela Hewitt on strengthening your writing

‘Identifying precisely where less is more is an art that writers – and editors – spend a lifetime refining.’

Pamela Hewitt is an IPEd-accredited editor who has been involved in editing and publishing for over 25 years. A qualified teacher and experienced lecturer, Pamela has presented programs for universities, vocational educational colleges, writers’ centres, and societies of editors around Australia and internationally.Picture of Pamela Hewitt Smiling

What are a few of the most common flaws in unedited manuscripts?

All writers and manuscripts are different but most have patches of overwriting. Much of the editing process is removing the scaffolding to reveal a cleaner finished work. There may be conclusions better left to the reader or unnecessary words that clutter the page. Often the beginning or ending is laboured. After trimming, a piece of writing is lighter but also stronger.

In your opinion, what differentiates excellent writing from average writing?

Outstanding writing is blindingly clear or instantly recognisable and yet it’s also original. When reading, you come across an observation or some particularly apt description that is so simple, you wonder why no one has expressed it like this before. Sometimes it’s lyrical – a flash of poetry in a piece of prose – or a passage that expertly combines humour with compassion. These touches of the unexpected delight and surprise readers. They also compel us to keep reading.

For writers approaching the end of a novel or manuscript, what editing skills can they learn to prepare their manuscript for submission or publication?

Learning to edit your own writing is an acquired skill. Beyond spotting errors of fact and presentational problems, the key to effective editing is putting yourself in a different frame of mind from the writing zone. The passage of time is very useful in pointing out areas that need more work. If you have the luxury of an interval between drafts, even a short time away from the text can allow a more objective eye. Editing pinpoints then smooths over fault lines and unfinished business. Identifying precisely where less is more is an art that writers – and editors – spend a lifetime refining.

Join Pamela for her course Edit Your Story on Saturday 21 October, 10am-4pm, at the Centre.

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