Editing: The Bane of My Existence

Now, if you’ve been reading my blog at all, you probably know that I love my job. My writing, that is. And I do. I love the process as a whole; I love the writing, the stories, the plots, the characters and their emotions and motivations and interactions. I do sincerely love my work.

But the one thing I really don’t enjoy most of the time is the editing.

I think editing is the most important part of writing a story. It’s the part where you go in and make sure it all makes sense, that these scenes go together smoothly, that she would have definitely said that to him. It’s also painful, because it usually involves cutting out or otherwise ripping to shreds and editing a piece of my story — the thing I’ve worked so hard at creating.

For a while after I finish the first draft of a story, I’ll celebrate to myself. I’ll binge on chocolate and video games, I’ll dance around the house with my cat, I’ll even draft some other stories. But I do usually take a few days to a week before I move on to the editing process. Why?

Because I don’t really like it.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the results of editing. You have no idea how good it feels to go into an old draft and read the stuff and be like “eww, I wrote this once?” It might seem counterintuitive to actually like that feeling, but it means that you’re improving.

I remember the very first rough draft I ever saw. The first story I’d ever finished, I threw it onto my hard drive for a few years to collect virtual cobwebs. Then I uncovered it for a school project, and that’s how I became a professional writer.

I’ll be honest: you couldn’t pay me enough to show off the rough draft to the world. It was cringe-worthy and amateurish, and a little embarrassing. But that was a good feeling; it meant I had improved my writing enough that I could tell it was bad. That’s a good feeling! A bad painter may know his portrait’s terrible, but he probably wouldn’t know how to finish it. A good painter knows just what to do to get it just right. Same with stories.

When I finish drafting, I usually know there’s something wrong with it. This section just doesn’t flow right, or these two character just don’t seem to fit. The only problem is that I usually don’t know exactly what is wrong. It takes a bit of re-reading and thinking the problem over to figure out what just doesn’t work, and what needs to be tweaked.

Sadly, knowing is only half the battle. I’ve still got to edit the darn thing. And let me tell you, it can be painful. Because on the one hand, there’s cutting out all the bad stuff to replace it with (hopefully) better stuff. But on the other hand, I worked on that! I slaved away at this passage, looking for the one perfect adjective, for hours! Or, well, that’s kinda dramatic, but you get the point!

That’s not even touching the bits where I know what I need to fix, and what I need to have happen, but I have no idea how to get from point A to point B. Those sorts of changes usually mean I have to edit the surrounding chapters and scenes too, and it’s just a sort of chain-reaction of editing all down the line of the story, because changing this one detail means that the details at the reveal scene don’t line up anymore, and I have to edit those to get them to fit, etc. etc. etc.

But let me tell you: there is no better feeling in the world (except maybe going to Disneyland, but then again, nothing can top that :p) than successfully editing a book. It looks better, it sounds better in my head, I no longer feel ashamed to show it off in daylight. I can take the final draft of my first novel (when I get it done, almost there, I promise!) and wave it under peoples’ noses like “Hey! My writing isn’t just a hobby! Look, I made this thing! This real, tangible thing!” Or, you know, wave around a USB stick, since all of my stories are on the computer.

Plus, let’s be honest: I don’t think anyone takes writers seriously if they aren’t published yet.

The point is, editing a story is equal parts necessary evil to overcome. And does it feel good to conquer it! I absolutely wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Except, maybe, for a five-day trip to Disneyland, staying in the Disneyland California hotel 🙂

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