Editing Sucks

We’re not writers, we’re re-writers.
Editing is a necessary part of writing. As hard as it is, our manuscripts are always the better for it. Because we want the best manuscripts possible, we edit, even though root canals are often a more-preferred activity.

Where it only takes me a month or two to draft a manuscript it may take me months and months to edit (Especially if I need to have it vetted by very specific betas in addition to the usual suspects. I might do this when, like in my MG, the story takes place in a city I’m not familiar with. )

I’m a pantser, so when I start editing, I may have to go back and change things at the beginning to make the end work. I sometimes go back and add in details, facts, and what I call color and flavor. I fact check, spell check, futz with names and places. I keep a running list of things to change/add as I’m writing so I’m continually moving forward and not going back and changing things. For me this keeps up the momentum

Most of all, I cut words.

My name is Suzanne Lazear and I’m a chronic overwriter.

I consistently write about 10-20k long.

When your goal is 100k, cutting 10-20k isn’t that hard.

When your goal is 55k, cutting nearly 20k is really hard.

My Elfpunk MG ended at upwards of 72k. I wanted to get it somewhere between 55-60k.

I hit a major road block at 68k. Like the kind that makes you cry and want to abandon the project even though it’s written.

Finally, I let the ms sit for awhile (while it was being vetted and I worked on something different, I like to have multiple projects in different stages going at the same time, it makes me feel more productive.)

When I returned to it I had an ah ha moment and suddenly saw all sorts of things I could cut, mostly narrative and other things that were nice but ultimately weren’t necessary (yes a few darlings died in the making of this story.)

No plot lines were cut. No characters were axed. I’m 2/3 of the way through and I’ve shaved 4k down.

I may not hit 60k, but I’m feeling much, much better about this project.

Sometimes it’s taking that step back that helps us edit – not just our books but in our lives. Though editing is never easy.

Recently I’ve taken a step back and realized I may need to do some life editing as well.

It will be a hard thing for me to “edit out” that activity, because it’s been part of my life for so long. But if something that’s supposed to be fun isn’t anymore, then it’s time to let it go – which isn’t unlike killing those darlings that are cute and loveable but don’t move your story forward.

So, I will push though and edit this story and edit my life and everything will be all the better for it.

How do you deal with editing?


Catherine Stine said...

I tend to overwrite too, and I actually find it easier to cut than add, so the editing doesn't bother me that much. I edit each chapter once after I get it critiqued by my writing group, but then I don't mess with it until the novel's complete. That way, enough time has elapsed where I can see the whole arc, and I have a better sense of what needs adjusting/cutting/tweaking.

Jessie Harrell said...

I way overwrote my first novel, but didn't mind the editing... cutting words and making it tighter was actually sort of fun for me. maybe I'm sick???

Elizabeth Prats said...

Honestly, editing can be fun and then there are moments you just wanna tear your hair out!

I do one read through and fix anything I've caught--then send it to a beta or two and get more feedback and edit according. Lol I'm around step 3 atm.

Anna Destefano said...

I'm a revision LOVER, Suzanne. I'd rather be diong that than anything else (planning is harder for me, and drafting is grueling).

Revision--that's where the true creativity begins!

Great post! Thanks for keeping us honest ;0)

Shawn said...

I underwrite. Wanted to hit 60k with my last story and came in at 52. When I subbed it, the editor wanted me to cut 2 if the 5 pov's I had which made it even shorter. Trying to find places to expand now. I really HATE editing!

Cat said...

I'm much better at cutting than at adding. I prefer to overwrite my first draft, 'cause it's oh so easy to take out all that "fluff". Adding fluff, though...

... just kill me now!

kellyhashway said...

I'm a constant editor. I edit while I write, which means my "first draft" (which is never an actual first draft) takes a while to write. However, when I'm finished writing, the revision process is much easier because I've already fixed a lot. Of course when I let the manuscript sit for a while and then go back to it, I can always find something else to tighten up.

suzanne said...

@Jessie, I'm glad someone likes word trimming :)
@Elizabeth, I hear you on the ups and downs
@Anna, yeah, you're right, true creativity does often happen during the editing process
@Cathrine, @Shawn & @Cat adding is alot harder than cutting. Good luck!
@Kelly, letting a ms sit is a good thing, we become so close to our stories sometimes

Beth said...

I don't know. My ms was about 120,000...I've cut 30,000...It was hard!!!! Real hard! Great post though.

Natalie Zaman said...

Well said--especially the part about the roadblock (have considered leaving dragon-steampunk on side of the road and not look back). See, I find the initial write to be death... Editing? Adding? Cutting? Bring on the shears, baby! I am currently rewriting several chapters of my WIP, and It. Is. Killing. Me. I'm sure I'll be quite happy once it's done, but until then...