Rewriting is the Secret to Good Writing

Today is Thursday, so this post is on communication skills.

All career and life stars have well developed communication skills.  They are excellent conversationalists.  They write well.  They are excellent presenters.

The June 2007 issue of Speaker, the official magazine of the National Speakers Association had a very interesting article on writing by Bonnie Budzowski (  In the article, Bonnie offered some great common sense ideas for writing well.

She suggests dividing any writing project into three parts:

  • Use one third of your available time to develop questions that your readers will want answered, and to gather the information you need to answer these questions.
  • Use another third of your available time to write a first draft.  Write an opening, answer the questions, and then write a strong close.  Bonnie suggests turning off your spell check function as you write.  In this way, you’ll avoid the distractions of spell check.
  • Use the last third of your available time to revise what you have written.  Read what you have written from the reader’s perspective.  Ask yourself, “did I answer all of the questions?”  Once you have the document in pretty good shape, edit it for grammar and punctuation.

I really like these ideas.  Dividing your writing projects into three distinct parts is a common sense way to write clearly and well.  However, instead of dividing your time into three equal parts, I suggest using one fourth of your time to develop questions, one fourth to write and one half of your time to review and edit. 

There are two reasons for this.  1) revising and editing are the most important part of writing.  James Michener claimed that most of his success came from the time he spent rewriting and editing.  He used to say, “I’m an average writer, but I’m a great rewriter.”  2) I think it is best to write quickly – let the words come out in a stream of consciousness.  Think Jack Kerouac and his claim that he wrote On the Road in two weeks.  While you might not want to go that fast, limiting your writing time will force you to get something on paper (or the computer screen more likely).  Then you can rewrite and edit.  Howard Sohn, my old boss always used to say "rewriting is the secret of good writing."  Howard was right.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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