Colbert: “Make it perfect, and then cut it”

One thing that separates great writing from forgettable writing is an author who is willing to keep working on a piece to make it better. Even though the writing staff of The Colbert Report turns around each show in only a day, according to this New York Times Magazine piece, they leave at least as much good material on the floor as they broadcast. As Colbert puts it, “Make it perfect, and then cut it.” In other words, not only is the material good enough to go on the show, but is it also good enough to beat out other material to get onto the show?

I had the weird experience a few weeks back of reworking the first chapter of my third novel, Record of Wrongs, a chapter I had read and revised at least 100 times, and finding major things to fix. I rearranged two happenings, tweaked a point of view and trimmed some words from sentences. Something about that section had bugged me, and my conscious mind finally figured out what.

There is a point at which you have to let something go and find an audience. But that point is after a lot more work than most non-writers or new writers imagine. The key skill is critical thinking, always trying to see the writing as a reader will and asking yourself how you can make it more effective. Click READ MORE and give me your thoughts.

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