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Tidy Up Your Writing
6 Marie-Kondo-Worthy Tips
If you’ve read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or watched Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, you may know a little bit about the KonMari method, which aims to “Tidy your space, transform your life” (KonMari.com).
We writers can learn a lot from Marie Kondo…whether or not we agree with her 30 books rule. While Kondo teaches us how to declutter and simplify our homes and our lives, she also has some great takeaways that can be applied to writing and editing. Check out our top six Marie Kondo writing tips below.
1. Set a goal for your book
Kondo is all about setting goals when it comes to taking on a new project. You’ll want to have one too so you can keep your efforts and energy going to the right place. What kind of goal? Here are some ideas for each stage of the writing process:
- Write a complete first draft
- Edit my manuscript to find big issues, like plot holes, character inconsistencies, and slow scenes (before doing this, see point #4)
- Edit my manuscript to find small issues, like repeated sentence structure and typos
- Work with a critique partner’s notes to make major or minor adjustments
- Get my book ready to send to an agent or publisher
2. Look for the joy in your work
By now, you’ve probably heard someone ask the question, “Does this spark joy?” Joy is at the heart of Kondo’s organization method, and it should be at the heart of your story too. When you’re drafting or revising, look for the passages that spark joy in you as a reader and as a creator. Dissect those passages and see what makes them stand out—is it the energy of the scene? The language? The pacing?—then see how you can apply that style to more and more of your work.
3. Learn the art of writing
Marie Kondo has a truly magical method of folding clothes. It takes practice, and it’s definitely not how you were taught as a kid, but it totally works. Same thing goes for the art of writing. A lot of people have a lot of different styles that you may not have ever tried or practiced. But you can learn from them, and you should. Pick up a book on writing, read articles or blog posts by authors you admire, or try a writing-prompt journal to get your creative juices going in a new direction. You can always improve and expand your writing abilities to become a stronger author.
4. Work on one goal at a time when editing
Kondo tells folks the key to successfully reorganizing a space is to start with a category (like pants or paperwork) instead of a whole room. When you’re drafting a novel, you will have a lot of elements—big and small—that will need your attention. For example, you may want to improve dialogue, world-building, and chapter transitions. But rather than trying to tackle them all in one fell swoop, allow yourself to concentrate on a single goal before moving onto the next one. Instead of reading through your manuscript and making hundreds of changes, just channel your energy into making your dialogue snap, crackle, and pop. Then world-building on the next read through, and transitions on the next. When you’re able to focus your efforts, you’ll make more effective changes.
5. Make sure everything has its proper place
You wrote a gorgeous scene in your first draft that no longer makes sense in your second or your third. You want to keep it because the writing is amazing, so you copy and paste it from chapter to chapter, looking for the right fit, but you just can’t find one. Here is where Kondo would jump in to remind you that everything needs a place. If there’s no place for it—if you can’t create a place for it that fits within your organizational structure, it’s time to refer to point #6 below.
6. Say a proper good-bye with your red pen
Some folks find it cheesy to follow the Kondo-prescribed method of thanking an item you’re parting with before taking it to Goodwill. But when it comes to writing, it’s so important to acknowledge the time and effort that went into scenes or even sentences you end up deleting. When you have to cut weak writing, you don’t need to shed a tear. But if you have to kill a darling and take out a passage that you really love, remember to thank yourself for the work you did and be proud of that writing, even if it doesn’t make it to the final draft.
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Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She loves reading and writing but not arithmetic. Follow her on Twitter at @LillianJaine or on her blog at www.editorsays.com.