Saturday, January 12, 2013

Detaching Myself as a Writer and Editing

I am doing some cleaning around the house; deciding what to throw away and what to keep. I picked up an old toy from when I was seven. I debated tossing it but put it back in its spot. Mind you I am 32 years old and there are no children who would be able to play with it. I kept the toy purely for sentimental/emotional reasons. Cleaning my house reminded me of editing my novels.

Do I delete that sentence or do I keep it? Then I ask myself, am I keeping it because the novel really needs it, or am I keeping because I'm emotionally attached to it? Some of you will be asking yourself, emotionally attached to the sentence? Yes! I am emotionally attached to every word, every punctuation mark, exclamation mark, hell even the spaces in between the words. Actually I'm even attached to the doodles on the margins of the paper. Which is why it is so hard to do thorough cleaning in the house and that much harder to edit my own novels.

I have edited other peoples work and believe me, I have no problem crossing out a word or even axing an entire sentence. Giving it further thought I've deleted whole paragraphs. I've spent countless, definitely hundreds but most likely thousands of hours on one single novel. I've poured blood, sweat and tears into it. When I'm editing, I have to emotionally detach myself as the writer. (I do all of my editing on paper first and then I change it on the computer.)

That is so easier said than done! The first time I edit my novel, I am still in writers mode. That is understandable because let's face it, the first time you write your novel it still needs a lot of help. Its almost as you're writing it all over again.
The second time editing, I start detaching myself a little. I read it through taking my time removing some words, changing the words, adding the extra punctuation mark or removing it. But I am still too attached and don't do much more than that. I have a dictionary and thesaurus at hand.
The third time, I would say that I am 75 percent in editors mode. I do one chapter at a time. I take fifteen minute breaks to clear my mind and then I'll do another chapter. I will remove paragraphs! I look at the little details carefully and meticulously.
By the fourth edit, I am just making sure that I've got all of the periods in place.
I try not do do another edit because I start reverting back to 100 percent writers mode and I would probably want to change everything. I would never write a second novel.

It is a difficult task to ask a writer to think as an editor when you've spent sleepless nights, countless of paper cuts, when you've cried, laughed and grown with your characters and your novel. It is a work in progress and I'm learning new things on the way. I read articles and books on how to edit constantly. I haven't mastered how to be an editor, I don't know if I ever will.

In the meantime I'm going to go and rethink that toy.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, so interesting that you are comparing letting go of physical items to letting as an editor. I say, get rid of anything you have not used in the past 2 years; they add clutter not only to your space but to your mind, as you try to clear it for more meaningful things in your life! Editing your own work if difficult, and so is letting go of the physical things that have surround you for the past 25 years of your life. Its ok to let go.