The Hard Work Of Editing

What I’m going to say is neither earthshattering nor a surprise to any writer. I just need to vent:

Editing is hard work!

I’ve been working on editing my NaNoWriMo 2011 novel after not touching for the last six years with the goal of publishing it later this year. Although the process has been a happy one in that I’m glad to come back to these characters after this long time, it’s also been a painful one.

NaNoWriMo’s very specific goal of 50,000 words in 30 days leads to some quirks when writing the initial draft, things like a decreased use of contractions, rough sentences that may or may not make much sense, and shifts in style, tense, and voice. You’re not supposed to edit as you go with NaNoWriMo, you just gotta get the words on the page. The process works, don’t get me wrong, but it makes the editing phase hurt more.

I tried my best to stick to the get-it-done mentality while writing my novel, even if I do recall fixing a few things as I went along, as well as reworking a few earlier scenes once I had written something later on that required the changes at the start of the story. This all led to a fairly cohesive story once the first draft was done, which has made my current job editing a little easier since there is a logical progression of events in place for the most part.

When it comes to the actual story, though, that’s where I’ve been vicious. I don’t know that my writing has greatly improved in the last six years, but I’m far enough removed from the text that I can look at it more objectively. As precious as those 70-something thousand words were to me when I first wrote them, today I look at them without mercy.

I am deleting words, sentences, even whole paragraphs, and sections, if they don’t work, don’t advance the plot, don’t serve my purpose. It hurts a little bit every time I delete words because I remember clearly the early mornings I spent writing, the sleep I lost, the proverbial sweat that went into them. But nevertheless, off they go if they’re not making the larger piece better.

There’s a certain glamour inherent to the initial writing phase that’s hard to deny. It’s at that time that a story is being born, that words are being strung together in ways heretofore never done before to tell your tale. It’s powerful, I know it. But it’s in editing that that tale takes shape from the raw material put on the page. Editing doesn’t have glamour because editing is work, and no one looks glamorous when they’re sweating away at work.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to work again. I have a novel to edit.