When I was younger, I used to think the real trick of writing was knowing how to get the right words on the page. That’s no small feat, to be sure, but as I begin to work toward becoming a published writer, I’m realizing thats less than half the battle.
For example, I’m preparing a submission for a BDSM anthology. After pulling together my first draft, I found myself over 6,000 words — well over the 5k limit. Even now, after trimming the fat, removing redundancy and squeezing the air out of it, it’s about 400 words too heavy.
I know from experience that the result of all this brutal editing will be a better, tighter piece but that doesn’t make it easier to do. Â Sometimes, I’m forced to cut words and phrases, or whole paragraphs, that I was very proud to have written. Â They get cut not because they’re poorly written, necessarily, but in service to the over all story. Â Once I’m editing, it’s not about me anymore, it’s about the story — what does it need, how should it be told, what contributes to that goal and what’s the dead weight?
My formal training as a writer was limited to some journalism in high school and college, with the normal raft of English classes and the occasional creative writing class. Â Maybe that’s why I feel like there should have been more instruction in editing. Â Maybe if I’d gone to school to become a writer, I’d have gotten more training on that side of the desk. Â As it is, I’m mostly self-taught. Â A lot of my practice has come from editing the work of others, and I’ve tried to use that experience on myself. Â When I’ve got my editing hat on, I try to separate from my writer’s ego, taking a more technical view of the work. Â This works best when I have some time between the writing and the editing phases, time to pull away from it a bit.
Unfortunately, for the piece I’m working on, I didn’t have much time between phases. Â I didn’t start this piece in earnest until earlier this week, and it’s due next Saturday. Â Luckily, I’m not the sole editor, I get the benefit of Roxy‘s excellent eye and sensibility. Â With her excellent advice, I’ve gone from the machete to the surgeon’s steel, and I think the result will be something worth publishing and hopefully, something we’ll be proud to have worked on together.
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