In writing, there are no short cuts. Techniques, perhaps. Skills worth practicing. But there’s no “easy” way to wrap up a story. Not a good one at least. I’m writing this post in the spirit of editing because I’ve recently finished the first draft of my first ever manuscript and I know that the next few months are going to be defined by MASSIVE, soul twisting edits. Cutting, re-writes, expansion etc. etc. etc. Like I said, no short cuts. My first draft is full of flaws, certain sections lack continuity, other sections witness inconsistent character reactions. The writing is riddled with issues that need fixing. But that’s fine with me, because if I’m being totally honest, I hate writing first drafts. I’m an editing fanatic. I get a charge out of it, unlike first drafts, which I find draining and often frustrating. Editing makes me feel like I’m in the driver’s seat and there’s something about witnessing a piece grow from the seedling stage to the flowering stage that’s enthralling. I’ve become so close to my work that editing makes me feel like a proud parent (not that I can understand parenthood.) Either way, watching my work gain balance makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something great.
Pardon all the cheesiness… But at least I can say my edits won’t require as much work as Snoopy’s here! Were they, Snoopy? Were they really among the finest of her life?! Tell me more!
There seem to be “first draft people” and “editing people” and few in between. What I mean is that, at least from my observations, most writers seem to prefer one process over the other. I consider myself an “editing person.” I enjoy fine tuning, breaking bits of stories apart so as to rebuild them, polish their edges. Others might prefer the initial world building, the first meeting of new characters, worlds, ideas. Of course this is a generalization and doesn’t apply to everyone. It’s just an interesting partiality I’ve noticed in most of the writers I’ve spoken to.
There’s a lot of discussion around first drafts and whether or not the process of editing is always a daunting one. I can’t say I understand these debates. Doesn’t everyone approach writing in a way that’s unique to them? Yes, there are fast-drafters and those who write more slowly, meticulously aware of every line meeting the page. Inevitably, some first drafts will require more edits than others. It’s that simple. What I can say, however, is that I have never heard of longer, published work that didn’t require any edits. If you have, please contact me because I’d like to hear about this prodigy! So… editing? A necessary evil? A great joy? A challenge? Sure. To me, editing is all of the above.
I love quotes! (as you all know) So let’s look at a few….
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
― Stephen King,
***A note: If you haven’t read King’s On Writing and are interested in writing, go! Go now and buy a copy! Whether you’re a Stephen King fan or not (I’m not) I highly suggest reading this book.
“Let the reader find that he cannot afford to omit any line of your writing because you have omitted every word that he can spare.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
***This doesn’t mean you can’t use beautiful words, write poetic prose or elaborate on concepts. It means that every word has thoroughly earned its place.
“Merely because you have got something to say that may be of interest to others does not free you from making all due effort to express that something in the best possible medium and form.”
[Letter to Max E. Feckler, Oct. 26, 1914]”
― Jack London
***I agree with this in full. Writing is not just “writing.” As the saying goes… writing that’s easy to read is incredibly hard to write and was likely written in a sincere attempt to clearly and eloquently convey ideas or emotions pertinent to any given subject.
Today, I feel incredibly lucky but also proud. I’ve been writing since the third grade and have always intended on making a career of writing (though in the third grade I wanted to be a writer, vet, painter, farmer and own twelve dogs, eight cats, two horses and a pig- I was crushed when I eventually came to realize that 24 hours is a very short day… that life, in general, is short and warrants a great deal of attention and gratitude.) While I’ve always dedicated myself to writing, I didn’t begin to edit my work until I started university and finally understood that I am, by no means, an amazing writer. I, like every other writer, must edit. I must edit and edit and edit until the work gleans and says “stop editing me you compulsive writer! I am ready to be read. I know what I want to say and I have found a way to say it.” So pay close attention, edit what must be edited but do not hide behind your edits. Do not use them as an excuse to forever withhold your work. When the work feels ready, by all means, share it with us. In doing so, you’re offering the world a gift. People may accept it or reject it but you, as a writer, have done your job.