Return Mission: Editing

When I write (what I think) will be the last sentence of a story, I sit back, minimize the window and soften my brain with a youtube video. I find it impossible to begin editing straight away. When I do, I find that I overlook things and make more mistakes. Waiting a while gives me some perspective, it helps me take a step back from the story.

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Currently at uni, I’m learning about professional writing needing to be written with the reader’s viewpoint in mind. Write how the reader will read. I think this applies to fictional stories as well. You have to be sure that the reader will understand your allusions, story-line, character’s motivations – it all has to make sense. When you’re writing these things, you understand why they are happening because they are happening in your own mind. In the reader’s mind, these things are new and they have to be able to keep up.

Coming back to edit the next day gives me the chance to see the story clearer. Even then, I am not that much of a fan. Eugh, look at all the simple spelling mistakes! Look at how I forgot that word! Look at how this sentence doesn’t even mean anything! It can make you think that your story isn’t as good as what is probably is.

Once the first edit is done, I close the window again and walk away once more for a break. That done, I go through a second time. Finally, I print off the story and read it on paper. There’s something about reading it on paper you can touch and hold up to your eyes, or hold a red pen to that shows up mistakes or confusions much easier.

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There comes a point when editing has to end, though. It’s impossible to be perfectly happy with your sentences.

This is why I wish I had a magical wand infused with my writing style that I could wave over my story to fix up any issues. In that world… I write carefree not bothering to fix up that word with a double ‘t’ instead of one ‘t’, I don’t worry at all when that sentence doesn’t quite make sense, I don’t even sweat when I’ve just made a character speak dialogue that doesn’t fit them – I don’t worry because the magic wand will repair all that in a swish and flick! Wow!

When I look to get my novel published, I guess the ‘magic wand’ will be a proper editor instead. Let’s hope they’re a good one who can spot an inconsistency faster than magic. Ironically, perhaps, I enjoy editing for other people. I don’t mind at all looking through someone else’s story with an editor’s eye, it’s just my own that I don’t really enjoy.

How do you edit?

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14 thoughts on “Return Mission: Editing

      1. It’s kinda stressful. I’m an editor for a news website, so there’s a lot of pressure and deadlines and it’s very rushed most of the time. But I like it and I’ve learned a lot.

  1. I agree with you that reading something on paper rather than on a screen just makes it so much easier to find errors. I’m not really a ‘writer’ but that’s what I do for essays, assignments and what not 🙂

  2. I definitely like to play the waiting game with editing, in both writing and translating. It’s funny how when you look at your text again the next day, you can magically see all these faults you didn’t yesterday! Suddenly you find the perfect words.
    As for when to end editing, deadlines seem to be a great help 🙂

  3. ‘Eugh, look at all the simple spelling mistakes! Look at how I forgot that word! Look at how this sentence doesn’t even mean anything!’
    And I thought it was just me… 😀
    I’ve been trying to write this way for a while – still not 100% convinced I’m managing it although I get good reedback about the clarity of the scenes. As a counterpoint, someone once said that my (earlier) writing read like stage directions. *sigh*
    When I write, I know that the entire scene is alive in my head – and the writing is clear. When I edit, I try to imagine curtains closing over that ‘alive-ness’ – and this puts me on a level with a first-time reader. There ARE no images in the head…at least, none that haven’t been generated by the words on the page.

    1. Good thing you no longer write in stage directions then 🙂
      That’s an awesome way to look at it! I never really thought about how there aren’t any images in the reader’s head without the words creating them before. Glad you made me think of it.

      1. There are two schools of thought in this (just to complicate things). There are writers who favour the describing of evry subtle detail to paint a picture as clear as a photograph in the reader’s head. Then there are minimalists who supply basic details and allow the reader’s mind to complete the picture. It doesn’t really matter if a girl’s dress has Belgian lace frills and tiny daisies around it. That’s one (two?) bit of information too much for the reader to retain. I’ve stumbled through entire passages wondering ‘is it important to the story that she has faint freckles on her nose?’ or ‘how am I supposed to remember ALL THAT??’
        Choose your middle ground carefully.

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