Monday, September 14, 2009

Ahh, the Joys of Editing...

So, here's the truth. I find editing a generally tedious and tiring process. I understand how vital it is, and that the result will be a polished piece. But tweaking and tightening and trimming the fat takes enormous brain power. It doesn't feel creative to me. It feels like "work."

Something that's made it a bit easier, though, is a quote I wrote down years ago, at a writer's conference at North Texas. I wish I could give this person credit - it was some agent or editor or writer giving a lecture, and I didn't write her name down. Here's the quote: "A word or sentence must earn the right to live." So powerful. I tell this to my students. I write it on the board and tell them that sentences must be valuable, productive, worthwhile. That they must have a reason to be on that page, to "breathe" on that page. A good rule of thumb is this: if that word or sentence can be removed without it changing the content, then it should probably be taken out altogether.

As much sense as this concept makes to me, I still find editing difficult. Not only because it's tedious. But because it's personal. Because the word whose fate I'm trying to determine - should it stay, go, or be replaced with another? - is still MINE. I spent time and energy putting that particular word on paper. So, sometimes it's agony, hitting the delete button and watching it disappear. But, I know it must be done. And if I keep my eyes on the prize - a better product, a more-improved and polished piece of writing - I know it's ultimately worth it.

1 comment:

  1. I know what you're saying here....I once wrote a short article for a children's magazine, 900 words. They wanted to reconsider if I cut it back to 300 words for one of the other magazines they publish. 300 words??!! Well, I did it...chop, chop, chop. Faxed it (I had a deadline)...and IT WAS PUBLISHED!