E is for….Editing

I’m an impatient person. I want things to move quickly and efficiently. I’m also unrealistic in gauging how much time a project will take. And I get frustrated when my vision for how something should go doesn’t match the reality. (These are also just some of the many reasons why I meditate.)

Writing a novel is an exercise in inefficiency. There isn’t a one-to-one ratio in words written to words published. I have piles and piles of pages that will never see the light of day, storylines that will never be more than notes jotted on scraps of paper, novels half-started and then abandoned. But I also have material that climbed out of the morass and became something interesting. Something readable.

Before I was a writer, I used to think that books fell out of the brain fully formed. The writer was a conduit, nothing more. Now I know that none of the good stuff gets where it is without rounds and rounds of blood, sweat and editing. Here’s how I edit and rewrite:  I poke and prod at the characters, examining their motivations and identities. I hack unnecessary scenes, rewrite entire chapters and destroy villages. When I can’t take it further, it goes to beta readers and I revise some more. After that, it goes to my amazing editor, Rebecca Heyman. Then back again for more editing.

And yeah, it’s totally inefficient. This still frustrates me on some level. Then I remind myself that maybe efficiency isn’t the highest goal, that maybe the highest goal is writing the best stuff I can. Then I tell myself to shut up already and go write.


8 thoughts on “E is for….Editing

  1. I so agree with all of this. I can’t believe how slow something takes to even get off the ground. And editing! Don’t get me started. I could edit forever. Although, I did have a short story deadline that snuck up on me while my little one’s sick days ate away the workable hours at a frightening pace. It got done, but man, turning it in was painful. I need to start writing the next one way, way in advance.


    • Oh man, I know those days! I could also edit forever. I don’t think I’d ever get anything done without deadlines, but I also like the last minute push to finish something, which doesn’t always square well when life happens. And in theory I’d start way in advance….but that is usually more of a theory than anything. 🙂 Hope your little one is better. Thanks for reading!


  2. I m the worst at editing.. this is why I will never be a famous writer.. Welcome in the letter “E”… thank you!
    Jeremy [Retro]
    AtoZ Challenge Co-Host [2015]

    There’s no earthly way of knowing.
    Which direction we are going!

    Come Visit: You know you want to know if me or Hollywood… is Nuts?


  3. Yup, before I started writing, I thought my favorite writers were magic to make something so beautiful, so effortlessly. Now that I can see behind the curtain I know that it really isn’t effortless, and it’s not the work of just one person, but a whole entire TEAM of people. And the editing never stops.

    N J Magas, author


  4. So true about the amount of time needed. And then even when you think you’re on the right path, you realize another revision is called for, an editor spotted errors you didn’t know were there. Sigh. I saw an interview today with Kazuo Ishiguro. He was discussing Never Let Me Go and how what the novel turned out to be didn’t even surface until the third re-writing. So, yeah, inefficient but so beautiful when done the best it can be.


    • That’s so inspiring! I just had that experience with an editor – she caught all the errors I knew were there and then found a huge one I didn’t see. Boom – there goes my plan to make “minor” revisions by the start of summer. Instead I need to rewrite the whole darn thing…but I know it will be much better in the end. One of my friends talks about writing as “process productivity” rather than “output productivity.” For me, that means writing every day but trying to get away from the mindset of “By X date I’ll have finished X# of flash pieces, revised X pages of the novel, etc.” Deadlines are useful, but I need to remember it’s a delicate balance to stick with the work while also “planning” that the but work itself might blow up our plans for it.


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