There are writers who believe their words are sacred and will fight tooth and nail to keep from having to edit their work. I am not one of them. I was taught early on that re-writing is as important, if not more so, than writing. I believe this is true. I also don’t mind being critiqued. In fact, sometimes I need it to see errors and rough spots in my writing.
I have spent the last week either editing, or thinking about editing a single chapter (about 9 pages). It might not seem like much, but when you have specific instructions on what to change and how, it becomes a bit of a challenge.
The first time I edited it, I only got about half way before I gave up the struggle and took a break. The second time, I finished the chapter – and it was an unholy mess. The third time, I cleaned up the chapter, and ended up splitting it into three. I have no illusions that I am finished. I fully expect to sit down at my computer tomorrow and go over it again, probably several more times, because it is a crucial chapter and I cannot move on until I get it right.
A well known, but often ignored gem of wisdom about re-writing and editing (no, not from me):
You need a break between writing and editing. Take whatever you’ve written, put it in your desk drawer, filing cabinet, or box under your bed, and just let it rest for a while before you go back to it. It gives you time to get over your high, the feeling that what you’ve written is absolute genius and there is nothing that could possibly make it better.
You need some distance to see the flaws. And when you do go back to edit or re-write, do whatever it takes to help you get through it. Have a friend look it over and give you their thoughts. Print it out and tape it to your wall to see the whole thing. Get a red pen and start marking.
I firmly believe that every piece of writing, no matter how long or short, needs at least one or two good edits, if only to fix grammar and spelling. Yes, it is humbling to see flaws in your work. It will make you shake your head at yourself, roll your eyes, scrap passages, even whole chapters. But it is also a learning experience. It will make your work shine, and make you a better writer in the process.
Thank you to Ms. Isbell for teaching me this. It changed the way I write.