Writing: Editing (Or, Writing which is Not Writing, and Endlessly Unenjoyable)

I hate editing.

Sure, it’s nice to revisit your characters, and sometimes yeah, it’s quite cool seeing what you came up with way back when. But oh God, editing is dull and tedious and should be avoided at all costs.

‘But Esme!’ I hear you cry. ‘Editing is all about perfecting your craft!

Nope. It’s about picking at scabs.

I’m all for making yourself better at things. I mean, I don’t ever get it right first time. I don’t edit as I go because I find it interrupts the flow. Then, when I’m done, I leave it alone. The only real, serious editing I do is when I’m trying to make something publishable.

Which is what I’ve been doing this week.

OH GOD.

Here, I applaud my younger self. She had a great grasp of character, and some of her settings are truly original, and her dialogue can really pack a punch. But I swear to God, if I see in another of her sentences ‘a little’ or ‘just’ or ‘slightly’ I am going to go back in time and kick her butt. She never uses proper sentence structure and some of her descriptions are plain banal. Physically, I cringed at some points. She starts sentences with conjunctions and prepositions and everything hurts.

It’s excruciating, having to hate your writing so much as to change it. And then when there are bits you love, it’s just as painful to cut things out or chop off words. I always get scared I’m going to delete something good and never remember what it was. Sometimes it’s hard just wondering why you put that comma there.

I know some people love editing. You’re all a bunch of sadistic freaks. I feel like George Lucas, constantly going back and pulling it to bits so much you ruin it.

But I know it’s necessary. And that’s what sucks about it.

Fortunately, if you hate editing like I do, there are often some of those sadistic freaks who love editing around who’ll gladly do the horrible thing as a favour, or for free in some cases. (Stephanie Cox, applause). It’s one of those things, I guess. Some people are good at it, others aren’t.

I have no coping strategies for editing. Just get your nut down and get it done. It’s hard, but worth it. When you read it again it’ll be polished and professional.

And you never know, a big publisher might just like it that way.

What about you guys? Yay for editing or condemn it to death? Discuss.

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3 comments
  1. Ah, editing, that old elephant on the writer’s back. Good article.

    For myself, I have a love/hate relationship with editing. At times I edit as I go along, esp when something doesn’t ‘feel’ a hundred percent, which it rarely does. At others, esp when I’m on a roll, I just keep going and damn the editing torpedoes.

    I used to think that the first blush of writing, when you get the original words, has an energy and passion to it that nothing else does. Like when you have an idea for a scene and then you try to write it down later and you can never seem to capture that ‘magic’ of when you first had the idea. But I’ve changed over the last few years that I’ve become more serious about the craft of writing.

    For me, the that first initial burst of creative energy is important, but it’s more like a rough diamond that can be polished until it’s a sparkling jewel.

    I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some professional writers and to attend some readings and be able ask questions about writing, and I think, to me now, the mark of an experienced writer is not what you leave in the story, but what you take out.

  2. esmelc said:

    Elizabeth – I know exactly what you mean about that scene that just won’t sit right when you write it down. I like the ‘craft’ idea, but personally, I think it’s more important to get a story out… of course that doesn’t mean your writing isn’t important, it just means your editing process becomes rather tedious, taking out single words or phrases.

    Quote – I hear ya, pal.

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