Friday, November 6, 2015

Thoughts on editing your writing...

I saw this image on Facebook and just had to steal it. It's so accurate. This is me when I'm rereading things I've written: Meh. Bleh. Gah. Wait, I wrote that? That was pretty good. Nope, that sucks. Ugh. This. All. Sucks. What ever made me think I could write???

Yeah, we've all been there. You write something brilliant one night. In the cold light of morning, you hate it. Or maybe, in the cold light of morning, you don't even look at what you wrote last night. Instead, you forge ahead, churning out words as fast as your fingers can reach the keys. Good. Good. Keep going.

Whatever your process, if you've gotten as far as a first draft of anything--be it flash fiction, short story, novel, poem, essay, at some point, you're going to have to edit it. You have to get to the second draft, third, fourth... well, there can be many, depending on what you're working on. Doesn't matter how long you've been writing, whether this is your first first draft or your tenth or your fiftieth, it'll benefit from some revision.

Dr. Seuss said, "So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads."

You--as author--need all those words in the beginning. So....take Colette's advice and "Put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it."

Because, as author Shannon Hale says, "I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles."

But...face it, eventually, you have to "Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings," as Stephen King advises.

If this seems a little daunting, take heart. As I've written this post, I've backspaced out nearly as many words as I've typed. Remember, "A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." Thank you, Richard Bach.

Because "Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear," according to Patricia Fuller.

In my experience, the more I write, the more I have to revise, and the more I revise, the better it gets. Up to a point, of course. On the flip side, you can edit a piece to death, stomping all the initial exuberance and life out of it. I know this is true, and Jeanne Voelker agrees: "I edit my own stories to death. They eventually run and hide from me."

You don't want your stories to run and hide from you. You should listen to them, fine tune your ear as you go. It's okay to scrap it, start over, chop off the first chapter, remove a character, whatever.  Because as C.K. Webb points out, "We never end up with the book we began writing. Characters twist it and turn it until they get the life that is perfect for them. A good writer won't waste their time arguing with the characters they create...It is almost always a waste of time and people tend to stare when you do!"

You might as well get used to the stares. After all, you're a writer. 

How do you feel about editing your own work?

Write on!


1 comment:

  1. Yep, that's me! I look just like that when I edit my own stuff. :-)