The Daunting Task of Editing

What is it that drives an author to sit their ass in the chair for hours (sometimes it's only minutes when you're a busy human) and write a bunch of words that may later be deleted?

Seems like a painful, tedious, and maybe an irrelevant exercise.

It is. Oh boy, it is.

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For me, the writing is the easy part. It's the editing that's frustrating. I've written 85,000 words in my current work-in-progress and only about half of them are any good. In fact, I've archived almost 40,000 words that were probably written on a whim with no semblance of order. During the editing process, I found those ideas and situations that I thought were utter brilliance--were total garbage.

So why keep at it, one might ask. If you spend all that time, writing words you'll only end up deleting, why even bother?

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For some writers, it's a means of survival. It keeps food on the table if you're lucky. Maybe it's part of your job. Or, it's something innate with the wiring of your brain. That's my deal. I have stories inside my head that I need to get out. I can't not write them down.

No matter how much work they might need on the back end, I've always dumped those words onto the page knowing I'd have to go back and fix them later.

And that's the hard part. The fixing. Seeing a huge novel in front of you, knowing maybe half of it isn't worth it's salt. Realizing all that time you put in will probably double because of rewrites.

Why not try to get it right the first time?

Easier said than done.

I've spent enough time in classes, seminars, conferences, and behind a resource book (or a dozen), that I've been able to train myself to write with an editor's eye. The result is that it takes me a lot longer to put any words on the page because I spend so much time trying to get it right. Talk about tedious. Plus, I feel like I'm doing myself a disservice when I do it.

Sometimes, letting the words flow and going back later to chop them like Gordon Ramsay in Hell's Kitchen, is the way to go.

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But it's so ominous, this editing business.

It is. That's why it's key to set targets for yourself. For example: "Today I will edit two chapters" is realistic and more likely to be completed than diving in without a plan.

Next, carve out time in your schedule, even if it's only on the weekends. 

If you're like me, you might even print out those two chapters, close your laptop (so the time-wasting interwebs don't call to you), and grab that red pen. Make sure you have some sort of outline for your story nearby, even if it's incomplete or will change as you go. It'll keep you on track.

If you haven't been at this for as long as I have, google yourself some editing guidelines (or reach out to me, I can point you to my favorite writing helpers' websites).

Perhaps the most important piece of this editing business?

Cut words you don't need.

I have called myself the "queen of words" at times because I use SO MANY of them. I'm sure if I went back and reread this blog post again, I'd find a dozen words to cut. 

It's daunting this writing business. I've been at it for 40 years in one way or another. Sometimes, it's so intimidating, I don't write for weeks.

But then, I remember why I'm doing it.

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