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The editing process

March 14, 2013
Posted at 6:50 pm

Most of my professional life was spent writing news and advertising copy, and at different times, feature material for industrial magazines. Writing novel-length fiction is a seriously different process that requires almost a reversal of years of habit.

The drafting: the tendency is to agonize over each word, phrase, paragraph, and to get bogged down in a self-editing process. This really pisses off Muse who resents interruption. She leaves in disgust and the flow stops. Creative writing, I find, is something like a pump-priming process: sitting down to type a few phrases primes the pump and the work begins to flow. Start to fiddle around with it, and it stops.

Objective: write, don't fiddle. Go with the flow!

The revising: editing involves much more than just hunting and killing typographical errors. It means rooting out and revising all the passive, redundant, turgid, cliche-infested, awkward, crufty crud words and phrases. It's like thinning the shoots, pruning the deadwood, and culling the herd. It's damned hard but essential work.

Objective: kill the little darlings. They're ugly bastards.

Second revision: ask a set of fresh eyes to read the piece. Not everything a writer means to say is clear in the writing. Errors hide from their creator. Plots wander off and characters get lost. Fresh eyes see the weakness. Revise again.

Objective: rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. All first and second drafts of anything are crap.

- - -

I got impatient. I posted Chapter 22 before going through it a third time. The next day, I read it on FS. It was embarrassing. It's since been cleaned up and reposted.

Remind me not to get in such a hurry again.

The story is coming along nicely, but Muse is adding many unexpected twists and wrinkles. One good thing: Muse is insisting on more character participation, dialogue, and interaction. That's a good thing.

Thanks for reading.