For the Love of Editing

Editing. It doesn’t get talked about enough. After all, my current WIP was drafted over 2.5 weeks in April, 2016 and every time I’ve touched it since has been to edit. In other words, I’ve already invested far more into its revising than its writing.

Photo: CA Hawthorne

Photo: CA Hawthorne

Whether you’re seeing where inspiration takes you or you have some form of outline at your disposal, once drafting begins the process is relatively straightforward: share what you know about the story. Editing is a varied refinement process with countless aspects requiring attention. That adds up to a lot of time. For instance, right now, with two novels drafted and the third not yet planned, there’s little else going on in my writing life outside editing.

Bottom line: We spend far more time revising than writing. The ratio may vary, but the general principle holds true. What Hollywood most often portrays as writing is drafting, but the reality of writing is editing.

Yet, my observation is that most dislike editing and, in many cases, despise it. Long ago, I’d shirk the process (sudden images of high school), but these days I appreciate and enjoy it. Still, for most, it’s tedious, boring, and a constant reminder of how poorly they drafted, as if a perfect first draft exists.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Maybe the problem isn’t the process, but the mindset. Perception is everything. After all, if your protagonist’s reaction to their environment is crucial, shouldn’t the same apply to your reaction to revising?

I’ve no magic potion to make someone love editing, but maybe I can share some inspiration. After all, editing is my life for the foreseeable future. Too, the timing is good because I’m currently navigating my way through some serious health issues. Having a consistent blogging topic in coming weeks would be a great aid.

I don’t have it all figured out, and there are far more qualified people than me to talk about the technical details of editing, but I can discuss why it has become, for me, the true magic. Maybe, just maybe, some tidbit will click with someone else.

So, next week, post testing at the hospital, I’ll revisit this topic again.

6 Replies to “For the Love of Editing”

  1. Pingback: For the Love of Editing | Christina Anne Hawthorne

  2. I’ve always wondered why writers (at least those on Twitter) seem to hate editing. I love it. It’s different from drafting, of course: drafting appeals to creativity while editing appeals more to logic and analysis. But that’s just why I love both so much: when my creativity gets drained, I go back and edit some parts and that helps me refuel it. When editing starts feeling tedious and my creativity threatens to burst out, I open the valve and let it flow in a new and shiny draft. It’s like yin-yang really.

    However, I do feel a tad incompetent as an editor, and rightly so: it’s my first time editing a full novel. It’s different from editing any other type of text or editing scenes. I haven’t even read all that much on the subject. But it makes it even more interesting: I love learning new skills.

    What I suspect I won’t like is what comes after: trying to sell it to agents, publishers, readers… But I’ll see when I get there. Maybe it will trigger the “oh yay, new challenge” part of me. And if not, well… the internet is awesome. 😛

    I’ll be looking forward to your next posts!

    • I loved your comment. It got right to the heart of what I was trying to say and added so much to the conversation. Over time I’ve discovered how to streamline editing, but I’m also adding to what needs addressed. That’s all a part of the learning process. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to not lament how much I don’t know and instead welcome my ability to recognize how much I still need to learn.

      Each day I spend 1-2 hours reading about the craft from any number of sources. It’s difficult to apply that during the drafting process when you’re moving as fast as possible. Too, if you slow down to apply what you know you’re slowing down the drafting process and probably trying to perfect what will be changed later. That’s what editing is for.

      Yet, I hear and see it all the time: writers who draft and draft and add words and avoid editing at all costs. How can their writing and careers advance? How many will give up?

      I sympathize when it comes to the later steps like setting out work before others. It’s terrifying, and also difficult to find people who’ll provide feedback, especially those who share an affinity for the same genre. On the side, I toss around new, creative ways to find those people. Thus far my efforts—admittedly minimal—have fallen short, but as I move ahead editing I need to try harder to find those willing to try something new. I’ve already learned how much there is to gain from even negative feedback.

      • Oh, I love your 1-2 hours daily reading about the craft. I admit I do it more by bursts, but it does not amount to one hour daily on average. I think I’ll borrow this idea – at least for when I edit. When I draft, I tend to use that time for research.

        It’s true what you say about negative feedback; the only feedback you can’t learn anything from is the nonexistent one (or the trolls, but those can hardly be called feedback). You can choose to think the reader simply did not understand your story, or you can try and figure out why that happened and whether you should do anything about it.

        There was a scene I loved in a Japanese drama (Rich Man, Poor Woman) where the genius programmer gets annoyed that the “normal” girl can’t figure out how to use his software, until he realises that as the genius one, it only made sense that *he* should adapt his product for the general public, not expect them to become techno-geeks overnight. It’s actually a well-known concept in programming, that the smartest software is the simplest-looking, but it made me realise it applied to everything: the expert in any field should be the one to adapt his output to his audience, not expect the audience to magically become experts.

        Good luck getting your work out there. I believe in you. ^_^

  3. Good comments all. Personally, I do like editing. It’s sort of the converse of ‘reminder of how poor the first draft was’: I can see the work getting better, fine-tuning it for best effect, and there’s a great deal of enjoyment in that. Perfecting the first draft, you might say.

    • Thanks. You’ve a healthy attitude on the subject. I agree. That first draft is the new home before paint, decoration, or landscaping. And, yeah, it is exciting to see it transform. Sure, a writer should be proud when competing a first draft, but to cling to it as sacred is to steal its potential.

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