January 4, 2012

Learning to Love Editing


We're back after a short break for the holidays. I hope everyone enjoyed theirs. Mine was filled with family, food, and shopping. Not much time for writing sadly, which I usually enjoy on a cold winter day.

I wanted to discuss editing and how I've come to really love it as part of the writing process.

When I first started taking writing courses, I disliked both planning out my stories and revising them after they were completed. It seemed like all that was great and exciting about writing was the stuff that happened when you sat down and felt the words coming out.

This was when I was younger, passionate, and, to be honest, pretentious, I felt like this was a way to break the mold of the stodgy writing that had come before me. I even had that Robert Frost quote to prop me up (I'd seen it in a high school English course earlier) -- "No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader."

How could I write properly after all the surprise was gone? The story was written, the mystery was solved, things were wrapped up.

I've learned two important things since then:

1. Don't trust people who are justified by quotes
2. Without editing, my writing is garbage.

Now, my work isn't finished without review. Sometimes, I'd love it to get more but I just run out time. It's true that some of that initial spark is gone when you go back to edit. But that isn't the hard part. I think I was being dishonest with myself when I thought that before. The hard part is looking at all your mistakes, all the awkward parts, all the places where you used 10 words instead of 2. Editing involves swallowing your pride, and that took some time for me to embrace.

There is no question, for me, that edited work is better than raw work. Writing is often called a craft, and nothing shows that more than comparing my original pieces to their published versions in HBM. We've actually been looking for a way to share some of our early drafts with people so that everyone can see how it looks. Lots of red ink and scratches from the three of us and our amazing editor, Sam LeClair.

I'm closing in on the end of another story now, and I'm looking forward to getting that first, edit-filled, copy back so that I can polish up my story and make it as good as it can be.

Oh, and I have another quote now. I apply it to editing, writer's block, and just about anything else I want to in writing. It comes from Carlos Ruiz Zafon's book The Angel's Game: "Inspiration comes when you stick your elbows on the table and your bottom on the chair and start sweating. Choose a theme, an idea, and squeeze your brain until it hurts. That’s called inspiration."

1 comment:

  1. Excellent thoughts. Today's industry demands that the writer do her or his own editing. It's good to have readers, but in the end, the author is his or her story's best friend.