Everyone loves editing, dont they?
Everyone loves editing, don’t they? No? I’m astonished. What could be more enjoyable than giving yourself the opportunity to reread your wonderful prose and to hone it into an even more compellingly readable piece of writing?
Well, a nice holiday obviously, or a trip to the shops perhaps, or sitting in the garden with a cup of tea, or doing the ironing, or even cleaning out the dog bowls.
Because the truth is that most people actually hate editing. I know this a) because people have told me, and b) because so many books are so badly edited.
There are two key components to successful editing. The first is the relatively easy one of correcting spelling errors, punctuation and typos. The second is the much more difficult one of deciding whether certain sentences, paragraphs, sections, even chapters, are really necessary and as good as they can be in their current form (or indeed in any form). Plus the related, opposite problem – is there something missing, a word, a sentence or an idea that would enhance the overall readability and sense of the piece if it was included?
Editing is not only about ironing out glitches in the language but about double checking the content and ideas, making sure that the article, story or novel is doing what you intend it to do, exploring the themes you want to explore, expressing the message, or telling the right story in the best possible way.
Yes, editing can feel like a chore, particularly after the creative delight of writing the piece, but surely it’s worth the effort to achieve a more readable, focussed and satisfyingly perfect result?
As well as honing your work it is useful to sharpen up your editing skills too. Practice makes perfect after all. As a light exercise, here are some examples of editing errors picked up from a selection of church newsletters (courtesy of my lovely mother-in-law). Enjoy!
Miss Charlene Mason sang ‘I will not pass this way again,’ giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
This evening at 7pm there will be hymn singing in the park opposite the church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
Weight watchers will meet at 8pm at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use the large double doors at the side entrance.
Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
Pot-luck supper Sunday at 5pm – prayer and medication to follow.
The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’
The pastor would appreciate it if ladies in the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.And my favourite:
The Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 6pm. Please use the back door.
The problem is, When do you stop? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve edited and r-edited the my first four chapters, there always seems to be something else to adjust. It can be quite a problem, stopping me from writing new chapters…
Yes, that is a good point, sometimes it’s best to write on and get a complete first draft finished, I don’t really recommend editing too much as you go along because you may need to change things again (add prescient clues etc.) depending on how your story develops.
Reblogged this on BRIDGET WHELAN writer and commented:
The joy of parish newsletters! This will make you laugh out lot but there’s a serious message for writers: edit, edit, edit
Great post that made me laugh while making a serious point that can’t be repeated too often. Like you and your other commentators I find that the editing process is another side of creativity. Can’t understand why anyone would let a first draft out into the world. (Find for sharing with fellow writers but I’m not convinced that even those you love should see it.) And as a rough rule I think most first drafts can be improved by cutting by 25% – mine included, especially mine.
Have re-blogged this post — thank you and please thank your mother in law for saving these wonderful examples.
Thanks, glad it amused you. Yes, I agree, it’s enlightening how much tighter things become after a good edit! Thanks for the re-blog too.
Don’t know about editing, but I often think I should have been a proof reader. The number of errors I notice in published books that have somehow eluded the “professionals”!
It’s true there are lots more errors nowadays both in published and self published books, perhaps not surprising as the amount of time allowed for editing gets shorter and shorter!
Another fan of editing here – I find it a huge relief as it becomes clear that most of the heavy lifting has been done, there’s some decent stuff there and the bits that need work can either be spruced up a bit or ditched entirely. It’s nothing like the horror of being 4 chapters in, snowed under by research and massively behind your deadline…
Yes indeed, there speaks an expert! Of course it’s the working out of what to keep and what to ditch that causes problems for beginners, they find it so hard to throw out long-agonised-over chunks of writing!
Thank you for this post and reminder to all writers. I’m one of those weird writers who happens to enjoy the art of editing my work. I find it as stimulating as writing the first draft.
Yes, me too actually, I love the honing process, a different kind of creativity, but very satisfying.
I couldn’t agree more with your definition of what editing truly is. As both an author and a professional editor, your points are 100% correct. I especially agree that editing is about making sure that every paragraph and point forward the story, and every word accurately contributes to the overall ambiance of the writing. Having unnecessary verbiage and narrative tangents can only hurt the piece.
Thanks for a great post!
Yes, it seems that a lot of people think they can just tidy up the spelling and that will do the trick!