Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Process Of Editing

Perhaps the most difficult thing I do as a writer is edit my own work.  You want to bring me your essay, ad copy, or novel to edit for you?  Easy stuff.  I will do a bang-up job.  I will catch inconsistencies, grammatical snafu's, punctuation taboos, gaps in plot, weak sentence structure, poor word choice, overuse of dialogue tags, formatting no-no's and help with writing directed toward your audience.  NOTE:  I am not offering my editorial services. 

When it comes to editing, I actually have a two-fold dilemma.  First, as I write, I tend to analyze my writing.  Therefore, I end up typing about 60 words per minute (if you count backspaces to erase mistakes).  I used to joke when I was younger that I would wear out an eraser before I would ever grind the pencil to a stub.  Now, I suppose I would have to say my "Bk Sp" button is the most worn button on my laptop (except maybe for the poor space button--I sometimes smack that sucker with a heavy thumb). 

The second problem I encounter is that when I edit my finished work, I miss stuff.  Easy stuff.  Embarrassing stuff.  For example:  while I was editing my most recent work—The Dark Side of Leaves—I found that in a key chapter I had killed someone off that wasn't dead.  Easy fix, but it was my third edit.  And my wife has read it and not caught it.  I just thank God that I was reading through it again looking to shorten paragraphs and excise the unnecessary parts. 

From my experience, editing can be fun.  Reading through your story can open up new imaginings.  I remember the characters I enjoyed creating.  It is nice to meet them again.  But, the best part is the feeling that "I did this."  At the same time, it is difficult to take ownership of some of the more embarrassing stuff.  And this can be a deterrent.  So can a familiarity.  It breeds more than contempt:  it can also give birth to frightening lack of discipline when it comes to the craft of editing. 

Tomorrow, I will list some points to remember when editing your work.  These tips come from years of experience from perhaps the most accomplished procrastinator in the world (I once didn't file taxes for 3 years—taxes from which I would receive a REFUND). 

Is editing difficult for you?  What is the most embarrassing "miss" you ever had?