Okay writers, listen up. E is for Editing. Yes, I know, it’s not the sexiest word out there. Far too many of us writers avoid editing as if it were some deadly disease. Trust me, it’s not going to kill you. Think of it more like an immunisation for a deadly disease, rather than the terror itself. It might cause you some temporary discomfort, but it will save your literary life. Editing is a skill as important to the writing process as actually putting pen to paper, and a process that far too often is ignored, rushed, or misunderstood by writers.
Here’s my “ignore” rant (ignorant…ignore rant….see what I did there? Okay I probably should have edited that out!)
There are two common reasons you might ignore the editing phase, on opposite ends of the spectrum. The first, you are so damn cocky about your writing that you misguidedly believe there is no need to edit. You need to get a reality check. Go and find another writer, ask them to read over it, and I am sure they will point out some flaws in your masterpiece. Don’t ignore their feedback. It will help you. Believe it or not, you don’t have it altogether. I don’t know of anyone who can write a finished work with no revision needed. This is said with love, but seriously, you need to get over yourself!
The second reason is that you know your work needs editing, but you are insecure about showing someone else and so fearful of them tearing your baby apart, that you ignore the need to edit and either go ahead without editing, or put your project on the shelf, where it gets dusty and grows old. When I write, either I try to edit as I write, which stunts my words and kills my creativity, or let everything flow, but then be too precious with my words when I come back after to rewrite or edit. Both are born from insecure writing.
Here’s the thing; your editor is your friend, not foe. Editing will take your masterpiece and teach you how to dust it off and polish it up, so that when you reveal it to the multitudes, they will be able to appreciate your creation in its full glory.
You’ve had this dream, you’ve put pen to paper, you’ve written it up and feel as though you’re about to give birth. Editing is a tedious task that is trying to keep your beauty hidden away for too long, when you just can’t wait to show your baby off to the world! You don’t give the process due consideration or time, eager as you are to get your work “out there”.
The thing is, people don’t really want to get too close to smelly nappies. If you haven’t put in the hard yards in revision and cleaning up your work, your readers will notice.
It is often said that writing consists mainly of rewriting. Though we’ve heard these words and others that encourage the power of revision, too often we see editing disproportionately. Surely, once we’ve written our book, most of our work is done? Of course, we’ll give a bit of time to edit and proofread, but that’s by-the-by. Mostly, we can sit back, relax, and congratulate ourselves on a job well done.
Sorry to bust your bubble, but editing is just as, if not more, important as actually writing your first draft. In the editing process, you pick up inconsistencies in your stories, highlight areas that are weak such as your world development, refine your characters and pull together your story to produce a much more coherent, consistent, and matured work.
Okay, so you’ve addressed your hesitancy to edit and you’re now convinced. What’s the next step?
Steven King is often quoted as saying “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open”. Though you may do your second draft alone, it is important for you to have people that you trust involved at some stage. They’ll be able to pick up inconsistencies that you might not notice, submerged in your story as you are. They’ll also give you unbiased feedback. You can also consider working with a freelance editor. Do your research, and find what works best for you.
Here’s some quick editing tips:
- Get others involved
- Be open to change
- Know your weaknesses
- Do your research
- Be ruthless
- Read your work out loud
- Highlight and make notes as you go
- Pretend you are your intended audience