Editing is Weird

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I like editing. There, I said it.

Many writers will raise an eyebrow or two at that. Some will express actual shock. Some people who profess to love writing or being writers also are free with the knowledge that they hate editing. But I like it. Sometimes I love it.

Working on my own fiction, I enjoy editing at least as much as drafting. Sometimes more. Every writer has their own process, unique to that person. Mine has a fair number of quirks to it, but I doubt that’s unusual. I also have an obsession with numbers that, in my experience, most people don’t share. More on that in a minute.

Typically, I work in four drafts. I may have talked about it before, but here’s a quick recap:

First Draft: the brain dump, getting the story out of my head and into the keyboard.

Then I let the story rest for a while so I can come back to it with fresh eyes and do a read through, making notes as I go on all the things, big or small, that don’t work or need explanation.

Second draft: the fix what’s broken draft. Take the notes, fix everything in them and anything else I find along the way.

Third draft: the make it pretty draft. The third draft is all about making the text readable, making it flow, making it sound good.

Final draft: the read it aloud and make sure I didn’t miss anything draft. Because I always have.

If it sounds like a long process, it can be, but thinking about the usual messiness of my first drafts, I’m always confused when I hear about someone finishing a story and sending it out the next day. By the end of the third draft, I’m almost always happy with the story

Oh right. Numbers.

First drafts are easy to measure. Subtract the number of words you start with from the number you finish with and that’s how many you’ve written this session. I can kind of do the same thing for revision notes, counting it as plotting, but it doesn’t seem to work so well for subsequent drafts. So how do I satisfy my obsession with numbers for those?

I could measure time, but that’s not so much an apples to apples comparison as it is apples to herring. I could just set amounts to edit for a given project or day, based on scene or chapter length. And I do this, but for targets, not productivity. It would be closer. Maybe apples to zucchini.

After struggling with the idea for a little while, I decided using the difference in word count works just fine. But what about when you cut things out and it winds up shorter? Simple, I take the absolute difference in word count instead. Starting with 5100 words and winding up with 5000 words is still a 100-word difference. The key is to remind myself that editing is part of the writing process, but it’s not the same things as drafting. Measuring it doesn’t have to be identical.

So I like the absolute difference measurement, even though it’s not ever going to produce a linear comparison. Depending on the editing that needs doing, and what draft I’m in, I could be adding or subtracting hundreds of words in a given session. And that’s okay. Either way, I still have a number to put to it.

And very occasionally, I manage to briefly entertain myself by spending an hour somewhere in the middle of a third draft, modifying sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, to come up with a net change of zero words.

At any rate, as long as I’m enjoying the story, every part of its construction is fun for me. When the words are flying out of my fingers into the keyboard, when I answer all of the questions and issues my read through produced, when I bash the awkward sentences into smooth ones, and when I hear the sound the story makes in my own ears. It’s all part of the process, and it’s all part of the fun.

Be well, everyone.

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  • Lareynita

    I’m definitely an untrewrider. My first drafts tend to read more like screenplays. Then, during revision, I layer in description, interior monologue, action, etc, whatever I need to thicken the manuscript. However, having said that, I’m also an overwriter in that I tend to put things in that, during the revision phase, I take out. A lot of repetition, things that don’t contribute to the plot or character arc, that sort of thing.So, I guess I’m a little bit of both. The revision process, then, at least for me, is balancing it all out.

  • Lance

    Sounds a bit familiar. I do manage a little description in first draft, but it’s sometimes on the order of “Spend a hundred words explaining Bob’s first impression of the bar.”

    Thanks for stopping by!

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