Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Editing Blows

Every writer will have to endure the pain caused by the red pen. Yes, the metaphorical red pen used to strike out every unnecessary word in each sentence. The pen responsible for the destruction of complicated phrases with a simple line. The pen that will add the addition of a forgotten comma. Does this scenario sound familiar? If you have written anything that has seen review, then you have experienced the art of editing.

Editing is important. It is what cleans up a work and makes it presentable for other's eyes and ears. It is a necessary, but difficult process. I have lately been engaging in this tortuous activity. Everyday I sit and reread things that I have read a hundred times before, a pencil in my hand. I have learned that you do not always catch every flaw on the first pass. You must go over the script again and again to find what you have missed.

The first time I began to take editing seriously was when I took my first creative writing class in college. My professor was a stickler for clean manuscripts. Even though we didn't workshop, he could tell if you didn't run over it a few times just by reading it once. As it turns out, he used to teach a grammar course on top of teaching for over forty years. He would look over the edge of your story as he handed it back to you, accusation in his eyes. "You didn't edit," he would say. After that, I always revised more than once.

Working on my first novel has taught me that not everything is perfect even after  you believe it is. I have been over the first chapters numerous times, and still find faults. Sometimes I have to stop myself from changing a sentence just because I don't like it. I have to stop myself from over-editing, yet I still look. I look for that errant comma, or the sentence that can be broken up into two. I look for a missing capital letter, or a an improper word usage. I do everything to make sure that others can read it without cringing in horror.

As important as editing is, it is tedious and time consuming. Editing blows.