I love the editing process. Love it.
I don’t know how common this is, but it seems like I’ve seen Twitter posts and blog posts that more often than not lambaste editing as being a tedious and unpleasant task. However, Ryne Douglas Pearson told me that he loves it better than writing that first draft, so where there is another, there are many more.
And here is why I love it. There is something empowering about knowing that each change I make, each deletion, each addition, each tweak, each revision… these are all making my story stronger. That is truly exciting. I mentioned in my last post how much I appreciate those who critique my work and that after reading or talking with them I emerge full of energy to re-focus on making the necessary changes.
Sure, the little stuff like spelling, commas, and other punctuation can be nitpicky work. But honestly, I get a kick out of fixing that stuff, too because I can be a perfectionist in presentation. I send the next draft to someone and I am appalled at how many more of those types of errors still slipped through. When I see that, I think, yep – still not ready.
Another part of editing involves simply tightening up how everything sounds. To me, this is where so much of the craft of writing comes in. In my English courses that I teach, this part would most likely be referred to as “sentence fluency” and “word choice”. Quite simply, am I using the least amount of words to get my point across effectively? Are my sentences too long? Too short? Is the point of the paragraph getting lost in the rambling sentences, or have I put punch into them and varied them up? Are my words engaging? I like to stare at a sentence for awhile and consider the best way to phrase it so that the tone and purpose come through clearly. Creating a plot and conflict and characters… all part of writing, but the blend of words to do this? This is the art.
And then, of course, arrives content – which is the most fun of all. In my post where I reflected upon my emotions for finishing the original draft, I said this:
“I might secretly hope that the last 68 pages I sent to Jen [my crit reader] totally miss the mark because then this means I’ll have to go back and write Ana’s story again.”
And while I was mostly kidding about that, there is quite a bit of truth about wanting to dwell in my character’s world. Editing content grants me that wonderful excuse to jump back into it. And because I’ve spent so much time there, I’ve become quite comfortable with it. So comfortable, that I can even enjoy criticizing myself. I joked with a couple of my friends about how at one point in my process I was reading through sets of dialogue and noticing that my characters told each other “I love you” far too often. I literally spoke aloud to them and said, “shut up”. I can spend time being mad at myself for writing that crap the first (or second or third) time around, or I can tell my characters to get a grip and fix themselves.
That relationship with my characters reflects another key to my satisfaction with the editing process. Seriously, the fact that I have reached the point that I can tell my characters to shut up and not feel like our relationship is irreparably damaged leads me to a new level of confidence in my story. They trust me, and I trust them. Together, we will make their story strong and compelling.
Currently my manuscript is in the hands of a couple of impartial readers and while I drift into the “what if they hate it or think I am deluding myself” territory from time to time, I am mostly excited for the work that lies ahead. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I’m impatient. I want to be onto the next step of querying agents and looking to publishing, but I certainly don’t want to try to sell something that isn’t the best it can be. I’ve mentioned before that I adore my story. I will not send it out into the world unprepared. If this means I have far more work ahead than I thought, I am ready.
And because I always want your thoughts…. what do you like/dislike about editing? Is it tedious or intimidating? Or is there a secret thrill behind it all?
[This song is on my novel playlist. In this case, it reminds me that my work is not yet done and that it is up to me to see the journey through.]