My Love-Hate Relationship with Editing



Now that I have the memoir I’m ghostwriting drafted, it’s time to get out my red pen and start editing. I hate this part of the process.

I love this part of the process.

No, I’m not schizophrenic. I just have a love-hate relationship with editing.

I’ll start with the hate. (I always like to get the bad part over with, and save the best for last.) Drafting something is the quick work, the just-get-it-on-paper part of the job. I can silence my internal editor, and all the other voices in my head that tell me I’ll never be any good, that I should give up the writing dream and get a real job. And in this case, there’s another chorus that tells me that what I’m writing will never be worth the money my client has paid me.

But editing is the slow, scene by scene, paragraph by paragraph, constant questioning, ferreting out redundant words, flat prose or unclear sentences. It’s going back to do research that should have been done more thoroughly the first time (if I even did it at all.)

Editing is tedious fact checking and a constant exercise in do-overs. Hard for someone like me who loves the excitement of something new. It’s the relentless cutting out of favorite paragraphs or even whole sections, the remorseless mutilation of the manuscript that felt so right when I poured the words on to the page.

That’s the hate.

Then there’s the love. The joy of searching the thesaurus to ferret out the exact right word that captures the perfect nuance. That sense of knowing, of rightness, when finally, after putting all the scenes on notecards and spreading them out on the living room floor, that yes, I’ve hit on the right sequence to tell the story.

Most of all, it’s the amazement that washes over me when I read through a finished page and feel the suspense or pain or joy the characters–and readers–are supposed to feel. I think, “Did I really write that? When did I learn how to do that?”

The answer, of course, is in the tedious re-writes, the painful editing, and the refusal to give up until I can do no more.

How do you feel about editing?



2 Replies to “My Love-Hate Relationship with Editing”

  • Some of it’s tedious such as looking for repeated words (how many times have I used “struggled” etc.). But I do enjoy it when I’m first able to read the story, and it makes sense. Going back over it becomes fun then—the tweaks that come from reading it straight through, all of a piece.

  • You are so right, it is tedious finding those repeated words. But when it finally all comes together, that is so rewarding.

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