In Praise of Editing

I really enjoy editing. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

Now I realize that I’ve lost some of you with the title of the post, and maybe a few more of you dropped off after that first line.

Not everybody finds that editing is their thing and, you know what, that’s fine. But for those of you who are left, come with me – let me show you something.

First, let me strip away any illusions. Editing is work. It’s not work like drafting is – that’s a different kind of work – but it is work.

And it’s fun.

You’ve finished your first draft and that’s definitely something to celebrate. You’re riding that high and you might be inclined to start right back at Page One to start editing.

I’d recommend waiting a bit before you start that. This is part of the work – and it’s hard if you don’t have anything to distract you. This is why I try to keep at least two things on the burners – even if one of them is on the back burner and only needs a stir every now and then.

How long do I wait? For novels, I like to wait a few weeks. For shorter works, I’ll wait less, though that also depends on how much space there is between me and the deadline.

When you’re ready to dive in and begin editing, I’d recommend that you port that story to a different medium than you used while you were drafting. This too can be a bit difficult, but there are rewards to be had. If you, like me, print out your work you’ve got a tangible thing that you can heft as the result of your labor. I still like the feeling of holding a stack of paper and realizing that this was something I did.

Now we get to the good stuff.

Ultimately, what you’re doing is polishing your story. True you’re also looking for flaws that polishing can’t fix (You can’t pick up that last gun more than once, and no amount of word-smoothing will change that). That’s part of the process, but what you’re doing when you sit down with your pen* is nothing less than chasing Awesome!

And you can find the Awesome in unexpected places. Sure it’s there in the BIG MOMENTS, but you’ll also find it in a quiet places where you discover that you almost had it right in the first draft. You got close, but if you tweak the phasing just so, or replace this word with that one, the words start to sing on the page.

There’s nothing like that feeling where you read back over a change and think, “Yeah. That’s the stuff.”

It’s like a treasure hunt. Something that sounded perfectly fine in your head while you were drafting can suddenly turn into something that really moves you. Or it can spark insight that will be useful later on. You never know what you’ll find. That line that you thought was a “Throw Away” thing in the first draft could turn out to be something critical.

Reaching the end of a first draft is a special occasion – worthy to be celebrated in it’s own right.

But the fun is just beginning. There’s wonder and excitement (and way too many commas) buried in those pages waiting for you to find.

Speaking of which, I’ve got some editing of my own to do – I can’t wait to jump back in.

Thanks for reading.

Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.

I’ll see you on Thursday.


Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

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Weird Wild West


Predators in Petticoats

*No red ink – that’s got a specific tone ground into my head which shouts “WRONG!” Your mileage may vary – it probably does, this is my head we’re talking about.