I have written a few posts about editing. The last one was titled Editing Hell. The name of the post reminds me of how frustrated I must have been feeling at the time. It also made me notice how time and experience change us. The other day I told someone I loved editing. I have observed this change at work as well. My job involves quite a bit of revising others work and I used to hate it – thought it tedious. I am not sure exactly when it happened, but of late I have felt a growing sense of joy in the process of revising and editing. Yes you did read that right, joy. I must be a geek right?
I have come to appreciate that as writers, we want to produce work that people love, or hate for the right reasons – like because it touches a nerve the reader has been avoiding. We want readers to immerse themselves in our stories, and if we’re lucky be transformed by them in some small way. But raw imagination is messy. To turn a piece of writing into something beautiful to read takes a lot of work. The desire for our work to tell a good story and to be beautiful can blind us to the purpose of editing – which is to find fault and identify what needs to be changed. I have come to understand that the work of writing a novel, is much more about the editing process than inventing the raw story, so learning to love it matters if we are to achieve our goals.
“The first draft reveals the art; revision reveals the artist.” – Michael Lee
The more I edit, the more respect I have for those who work as editors. They must find and iron out the faults in order to polish a writers work so that it really sings like a finely tuned instrument, yet balance that imperative with the limits to which they can push a writers ego. No wasted words, no words out of place. And anyone who has had to provide ‘constructive feedback’ knows how hard a line that can be to walk when your hope is to get the best outcome. For many writers their work makes them vulnerable and can be a vehicle for their hopes. Push too far and the feedback can be lost in the others woundedness. Don’t push enough and the work may never meet the authors expectations once out in the world.
“Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn’t be there.” ― William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
In the moments I feel like I am getting sick of editing I remind myself why I’m doing it. I want to make the work as polished as I can – before one of my beta readers, or an actual professional editor reads it. Because then I will get the best out of the collaborative editing process.
Images: Tempest, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery