Vir's Archive

Friday, April 11, 2014

Reflections on Part 12: Editing Is The Real Work

Editing is where the rubber hits the road for writing.

A turn of a phrase is great and all, but editing is where its at, boy-yo!

I remember when I first started freelancing, I assumed that writing was about sitting down and putting words to paper.  I expected that I would edit as I wrote, correcting grammar and spelling as I went and would craft compelling combinations of words through inspiration and emotion.  That's not exactly wrong, but its not the whole story.  Editing is what makes good sentences readable.  I am sure there is some writer/author out there that can craft solid sentences and paragraphs in the majority of their first drafts -- I am not that guy.  

This is my work before editing... its not pretty.  
Fact is, I need three of four editing passes to make my work into something compelling.  Edit one is for grammar and spelling.  Edit two is for flow and to make sure I haven't gone apeshit with the use of adverbs and adjectives (Its a problem. I am seeking counseling), and Edit Three is about refining all of my previous work into something lean and mean, and Edit Four (or Five, or Six...) is all about verisimilitude.  Of course, if Edit Four reveals a particularly glaring mistake, it could require entire rewrites which will start the editing process for that section back to Edit one.

The thing is, when i started writing years ago, I budgeted about 15 minutes of editing for every hour I vomited words.  I could not have been more wrong on managing my time.  These days, it a straight 1:1 process, which doesnt include the extra work put in by my volunteer peer editors (hey Aileen, Alicia and Mel!).  -- all told there is a lot more time that goes into my writing than actually writing.

I am not a successful writer, but I have enough credits to my name to give some sound advice.  The most important advice I can give an aspiring author is to learn to love tough edits.  When someone invests the time and energy to redline the ever-living-shit out of your work, its because they care.  The people that don't care?  Yeah, they are off playing playstation and ignoring your latest masterpiece.  When someone you trust tells you your work is crap, take that advice for the constructive spirit its offered.  Sometimes our stuff is crap, and thank god there are editors out there with the courage to tell us so.

Hm.  I think I am going to start national "Thank Your Editor" day.  Federal holiday, perhaps?

perhaps not.


Incidentally, what you see in these proto-chapters is usually edit two or sometimes three -- never four.  Edit four + I keep for myself.  At some point when I am finishing, there is going to be yet another series of comprehensive edits to try to pull everything together.

And in case there is any question - its always worth it.  Always.  The more time I spend editing, the better my words become.  In a perfect world I would edit and edit for eternity - constantly refining the interplay of the words and intent. Its not a perfect world, and so one day in the near-ish future I will walk away from this manuscript and consider it (mostly) done.

That will be a good day.

But that day is not today.

Today?  Today I have pass two to do on Chapter 16.


P.S. it took 10 minutes to write this post and 18 minutes to edit.  Go me.