Today I am having an extremely bad, horrible day. I just spent an hour writing a blog to post here, saved it, copied it and when I pasted it into WordPress one line appeared, a weblink. I tried again. The same result. What happened to my file? I searched File Manager. I saw my saved file title, but the file was now empty. AAARCGH! Nothing. Nada, Zip, Zilch. All my hard labor gone in an instant. I try to look at these mysteriously disappearing files as God’s way of telling me I could do better, BUT some days that is not easy. Today is one of those days.
So…here is my second effort.
Producing a quality manuscript is like mining for diamonds. Days pass when we have no ideas. We struggle to write three meaningful sentences. We become discouraged. Rejections make us doubt we have talent. Diamond mining is hard dirty work. Tons of ore must be sifted to find diamonds. Most that are found are small and not gem quality.
As writers some days our fingers fly over the keyboard. We write for hours, not taking time to eat. Our families feel abandoned. We are inspired, excited. These are rare days, but ones to be cherished. The same is true for diamond miners. Only rarely do they find a 20, 30, or 40 carat diamond. Most days are spent sifting through debris searching for a gem quality diamond.
With determination, and the grace of God, we finish our manuscript. Don’t consider it ready for publication. It is a rough draft. The same is true for diamond mining. What a miner finds would not be recognized by most of us as a precious gem, as it does not look anything like the diamonds in the jewelry store.
Several steps are need to change that dull looking rock into a fine gem. The same is true of our writing. (Now comes your diamond production lesson.)
After finding a diamond, the first step is:
1. Cleaving – Cleaving is the separation of a piece of diamond rough into separate pieces, to be finished as separate gems.
For writers this step is called editing. It can be brutal. Now is the time to have the members of your critique group read what you have written. Listen to their advice. Generally 1/4 to 1/3 of what you have written needs to be deleted, revised, or replaced.
2. Bruting – the process whereby two diamonds are set onto spinning axles turning in opposite directions, which are then set to grind against each other to shape each diamond into a round shape.
For writers this is our major revision. The suggestions made by other writers are implemented or discarded. We sharpen our pencils and chop out the paragraphs that do not move our story forward or confuse the reader.
3. Polishing – the process where the facets are cut onto the diamond and final polishing is performed. This step gives the diamond its brilliant sparkle that we know so well.
For writers this may mean hiring an editor if you feel your work is “just not right.” A new set of eyes, one you may have to pay, can help you with conceptual editing. Good writers should not need to hire a proofreader, but an editor for theme, content, and clarity might be just what your manuscript needs, especially if you have submitted it several times with no positive feedback.
4. Final inspection – the final stage of diamond cutting involves cleaning the diamond in acids, and examining the diamond to see whether it meets the quality standards of the manufacturer.
For writers this means proofreading. Search your writing for spelling errors, words that are not used properly (“by” instead of “my” or “staggered” instead of “struggled.”) These mistakes will not be caught by spell checkers. Reading aloud will help you find these errors, plus is you find a sentence that is difficult to read, it will be just as difficult for your reader to understand it.
Now the diamond is ready to be set into a necklace, ring or other piece of jewelry. Likewise your manuscript should now be ready to submit to selected publishers.
While writing this I thought of a Christian song by Hawk Nelson. The link to the lyrics is here. The chorus is below.
He’s making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust.
He is refining and in His timing
He’s making diamonds out of us (and our writing, I add.)
Diamonds take years to make and months to refine. So does our writing. Don’t despair.