Sunday, May 26, 2013

Editing Revisited

I managed to finish the first round of editing on Wrongful Death this past weekend, and it forced me to re-live many of the lessons on editing I'd learned over the years.  I had to remember that I wasn't reading for enjoyment, but rather to make the writing more efficient.  That usually meant eliminating stray adjectives and adverbs, reducing the overall word count, but it didn't always mean that.  There were times, few as they may have been, where I needed to add words to help a passage be understood.

I confess that adding words during the editing process is difficult.  Not difficult from a writing standpoint, but rather from an emotional one.  Those of you who've done some serious editing on your work know what I mean - you get in a rhythm striking words and lowering the overall count to something less than gargantuan, and suddenly you put a little bit back in.  It takes some work to get past the disappointment of growing rather than trimming, but it's necessary sometimes to make the work better.

Anyway, I'm just griping now, and mostly for no reason.  The vast majority of my editing was about striking whole paragraphs and eliminating redundancy(why say the main character "sprinted quickly"?  Doesn't sprinting imply that he was doing it quickly?).  I combed through each line to make sure the story needed it.  If it didn't, it went into the roundfile.
(Eliminate a few and you still have a pile of goodness)
The biggest surprise I had during the past week was that I wasn't eliminating as many words as I did with my first two works.  At first, I thought that was because I hadn't done an editing job in a while and I'd lost my game.  Therefore, I went back and painstakingly analyzed each line to look for extraneous words.  However, I quickly discovered that I wasn't leaving too much crap behind - I'd simply gotten more efficient in my writing.  Yes, this sounds braggadocios, but I took some satisfaction in figuring out that the time I was spending on the craft was making me a more efficient writer.

I puffed out my chest on that achievement for all of five seconds before realizing no one cared or would even know, so I went back to the task at hand.  I set daily page count goals, usually after my wife went to bed.  Since the chapters in Wrongful Death were shorter than my other stuff, it was easy to get to the end of yet another chapter, and I even found myself in a trap of saying "just one more"...and then looking up at the clock and finding out it was after midnight.  For the first time in editing a piece of work, I was exceeding my goals(I love writing, but I loathe editing...nowhere near as fun).

Now that I reached the end of the first edit, taking my word count from nearly 68,000 to under 65,000, I'm putting it away for at least a month.  Looking at it again so soon wouldn't do me any good since I'm still too close to the work.  Further, too much editing, at least for me, hampers my free flowing style when I'm working on a story - I find that I edit work in progress if editing is too much on my brain, and that both interrupts the process and makes it less fun.

I'm going to work on a few short stories in the interim, but I'm already feeling an itch to start another novel.  That's hard to ignore because I love to write, but I need to focus on shorter stories and finish some editing first.  Still, it's nice to know that even a novel as draining to create as Schism doesn't rob me of the motivation to write for very long.

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