Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday Wonderings - Evil Edits

There is one word this writer loathes above all others: editing. I know a lot of author types who despise the editing process. We are creative; artistic and eager to delve into stories and characters, exciting plot lines and dialogue. So why should we spend more time nit-picking than actual story telling?

Nowhere is it written that editing is law. Maybe you’re one of those fantastic people who write perfectly first time with no need to double check anything. I doubt it, but maybe. Because writers are creative, we’re also flaky – prone to changing our minds at a moments notice.

Editing is time consuming. You need to spend time alone with your book fine tuning it and polishing it to the point of dazzling. I hate editing because I get wrapped up in the story, rushing to get to another part I like. I miss a lot. Therefore I edit a lot.

So what makes it easier?

For me it depends where I’m at in the book – maybe it’s finished and I’m editing it as a whole rather than individual chapters. If it’s whole, I think about what I’m trying to achieve with that round of editing. Am I looking for flaws? Continuity? How the story flows? Does each chapter match up with the preceding one? Could a scene or chapter be moved somewhere else? Could it be taken out entirely? Once I’ve decided, it makes it a lot easier. If I’m looking for nits I don’t notice the story, only one word or punctuation mark at a time. If I’m seeing how it flows I ignore the nits, concentrate on the book as a whole.

The most important thing to remember, especially when you get bored and lean back in your chair, open up Facebook or MSN for distraction from the editing, you are doing it for a reason. Editing is just as important as the writing, if not more. Every word has to earn its place in your book. Why use three words when you could use one?

I’m a natural rambler. It takes a lot of effort for me to shorten word count. But it can be done. Honest.

What I always remind myself is that although I hate the editing process, once the warm glow of reaching the final chapter is replaced with a hollow, empty feeling of dread at the thought of starting edits, I always find something along the way. A story line that was on the horizon but never amounted to anything can burst to life, giving me flashes of inspiration.

And if I really need something to spur me on, I open the first draft of a project I have finished multiple drafts of. I read the first few chapters then open the most recent draft of the same project. The difference, the improvement, always startles me.

So next time you get an edit migraine, take a moment to think about why you’re doing it before you procrastinate. And if you can’t think of anything, writer friends can be amazing motivators. And if all else fails, jump on MSN. I’ll probably be there. Procrastinating.


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