>> Friday, March 5, 2010
Sometimes I wonder, is the editing-hate I see some writers express due to it being actual WORK, or is it the negative focus/attitude that gets in the way? Both? Neither? Something else?
(When I say "editing" I'm talking about fine-tuning words and line-edits. Nitty-gritty stuff like word choice and sentence structure and how many em dashes you can get away with before beta readers come after you with torches and pitchforks. Editing, in this case, means the polishing stage. Revision and rewriting are different*.)
Confession: I used to hate editing. And I wondered why--obviously because it's fricking hard WORK, it's tedious, it requires concentration and focus, and it takes time. It's still not my favorite activity, I admit.
However, it's the way you make a draft good. And that's what I want, isn't it? A good draft that I can make spiffy and shiny and sparkling-clean for submission purposes? Yes. Okay, so I've established that editing = a better draft, which = I could submit it to markets, which = potential publication. (Which is a goal.)
So if my goal is to 1.) produce quality stories which I would be happy to share (I'll let people read first drafts, but only a few people), and 2.) reach a wider audience via publication, then I must learn to edit and I must have a positive attitude.
Why the attitude adjustment?
Bitter and angry and hating on something does not make it fun to do (unless you have that kind of personality, I guess). Oh, sure, there are bad days, and there are areas in a manuscript that incite bookhate, etc. I get frustrated when perfectionism kicks in and I don't produce a perfect draft the first time. Yeah, guilty. It's a hard monster to beat (again and again because it's like horror movie sequels and franchises--IT NEVER DIES). However, in general... liking what you do makes it easier to improve and do it more often.
A positive attitude and focus on (positive) goals may not make the editing less work, but it will make it easier and more appealing. Yes, I have days where I fall back into "teh hateness." But trying to stay upbeat and keeping a positive attitude makes editing easier. (It also helps if you love the story you're working on.)
Working off that theory, if I look at editing as a hateful, dire process that-oh-god-who-came-up-with-this-in-the-first-place-naggh rather than focus on my final goal (if I do the bloody hard work and get this story sparkling, it might have a chance) I'm pretty sure I won't get anywhere useful, or if I do, it'll be full of stress and bad moods and random innocent zombie bystanders will be incinerated.
That's just not fair to the zombies.
Thus, I'm learning to have a better attitude towards editing. I'm even starting to enjoy it. It's a necessary part of the craft. It's how we turn crappy drafts into readable stories. It's part of the process if you want to become a professional writer.
It may not be easy and there are days it will not be fun. I have a lot to learn (as always) and there's no guarantee the work will pay off on any particular story.
Despite all that, I'll continue to work on my attitude towards editing. Think of the zombies, after all.
*Christy asked in the comments what my definitions of "revision" and "rewriting" and "editing" are, for reference. Here you go:
-revision = big changes. Adding scenes, adding/cutting/combining characters, rearranging large parts of the novel, fixing plot holes, etc. Your big lifting and large-scale fixes in a story.
-rewriting = starting over from scratch, whether it's a single scene or the whole novel. I differentiate the two because you can revise a story or novel without necessarily scrapping the entire daft and beginning all over. Maybe "redrafting" would be a more accurate term...?
- editing = micro changes. Fixing words, sentences, punctuation, smoothing tiny details, tweaking pacing, trimming excess wordage, etc. The polishing stage to make the prose sparkle and read smoothly.