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Stuck in the Editing Process? -- by Elizabeth Rhodes

Yesterday, I finished up and polished the short-short story I've been tweaking on and off for a few years now. It's amazing. I'd compare this feeling to what I had when I finally finished a rough novel draft. I can now breathe a sigh of relief and move on to the next step, as well as work on edits to my novel.


There are a few things I learned about the editing process along the way:


*Don't expect perfection.Writing, like any other form of art, is subjective and experimental. You can work on the same piece for decades, rewrite, scrub it clean of fluff, add description, and set the entire scenery on fire. No matter what you do to it, there will always be a reader or critiquer to find a flaw in your work. Now, this isn't a bad thing. Maybe they didn't like how you worded a particular scene, but you disagree and feel it's necessary. Maybe they don't relate to the characters as well. Maybe they just hate your genre.But for every person who finds fault with your writing, there will be others who love it. At some point you need to take a step and decide whether the flaw you're trying to fix is really a flaw or just an indication that the reader just isn't a good fit for your writing.


*Don't expect to get it right the first time. Not taking into account the time it spent on the backburner, I'd estimate I spent a month or two working on this short story. The story is less than 1000 words. My novel is not even close to second draft status, and my first novel is also far from polished. Editing will take time.


*Don't overwhelm yourself.Looking through my rough draft I noticed many spelling and grammar errors. There were even more plot inconsistencies, POV changes and other miscellaneous things that were just plain wrong. It's the worst part of the writing process, because you wonder to yourself what the hell you were smoking while you were writing it. But that's the nature of the draft.


It doesn't mean you should aim to fix everything in one go. I've tried to do that. I tried reading through quickly, jotting down notes in a "to fix" list that took up pages, before I became disgusted with myself and put the book down. Don't do that to yourself.


Compare the editing process to looking at your story through a camera lens. The first time around, look at your story from a "zoomed-out" view and focus on the thornier issues of grammar, excess fluff, and things that make it generally unreadable from a technical aspect. That's your second draft. Next, take a look at those POV changes and figure out who should be saying what in what scene. Finally, tackle the plot holes and inconsistencies. Take care of one issue at a time and you'll find your plate much lighter. The process takes longer this way, but see the previous point.

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes 2 Jul 2013 at 06:19
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Responses to this blog

Sheridan 2 Jul 2013 at 14:05  
I read a quote from Lee Child interview where he was asked if he could go back and make edits to his first published work, and Lee said (paraphrasing), "Of course. But then I asked myself, what if I could do the same five years down the road? Would I make edits once again? Of course I would. It would become an endless cycle. At some point a writer has to step back and say it's good enough, that's it, I'm done."

Breeze 2 Jul 2013 at 14:34  
Very helpful post, Beth. Have to say, I love to edit, because for me it's so much easier than plotting and working out scenes. I no longer rewrite with fear that it isn't right and I'll never be able to make it so—I rewrite with pleasure! When it's no longer fun, I say 'what the heck,' and push 'publish.'
Comeaux 4 Jul 2013 at 07:17  
Beth, GREAT advice!


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