The Truth About Editing

Via: Daily Prompt – Simple


Image: Nic McPhee, Flickr

As I mentioned in Sunday’s WRITING CHRONICLE, I’m taking an online course on writing fiction to learn to compose more structured literature. Last week, we learned about Developing Characters: detailing, often using ordinary words in uncommon ways, to create images and bring characters to life. This week, we learned about Editing: simplifying the details until only relevant materials remain in order to keep readers focused on the character. [Ouch.] 


Don’t get me wrong; I’m completely onboard with the need to edit my work. It is the reason why I enrolled. I was once told by the editor of a national newspaper I contributed to that my sentences were too profound and needed to be made more comprehensible for readers. When he handed back the article I wrote, it was bleeding. I muttered, what’s the point of including adjectives and adverbs in the dictionary, to use in the witness box? [He was kind enough to keep me on – for my “voice”]

Well, my voice has adjectives in it – lots of them. But as a cohort in my class commented, we writers tend to “waffle”. But editing is so excruciating! [please excuse the whining]

Truth is, my joy in writing stems from an innate desire to string words together into unique sentences. My love for language, any language, resides in the intricacy of words; how even synonyms are nuanced, ensuring each word has its singular meaning. [Seems wasteful not to take advantage.]

Vocabulary classes in grade school were wonderful. Spelling bees were exhilarating. Learning complex sentences in fifth grade, an eye-opener. [I keep saying I am a nerd!]

I essentially left behind simple sentences in fifth grade. I’ve been trying to unlearn complex sentences since my editor pointed out the “flaw” about a decade ago. Success has been elusive but, as our instructor said in Week 3, we must learn to be self-critical enough to hack our beautifully written sentences into bits. [Ok, so he didn’t say that. But he meant it.]

I have been diligently practicing editing, though. It is the reason why it took me nearly two hours to write this simple 368-words blog. [Please do comment on how I did.]

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  1. #1 by Michael O'Hara on January 27, 2017 - 9:33 am

    Well – that is how you did, Zaireen.

    Words are florid little things, and when well-tended, the garden is far more spectacular than the individual sprouts could ever be. So more words equals more foliage equals a prettier and more expansive picture. We seem to share a similar fetish in the desire to keep adding colour (“color” in lands where that is the norm) and tone and emphasis to that picture.

    The editing tool is a vicious little thing, and my own impression is that it is great for thinning out the garden, to identify which words are where, and when they could be transplanted or maybe thinned out – but that doesn’t stop us from cramming more words in, it just means we have to be more selective on what we plant and where.

    • #2 by lupa08 on January 27, 2017 - 11:32 am

      Lovely, the way you described it. Fully agree. So perhaps a bit more editing during the first draft would ensure I won’t have to bring down my freesias or uproot my hydrangeas…

  2. #3 by Michael O'Hara on January 27, 2017 - 9:34 am

    Hehe… “share a similar”… damnable editing lessons.

    • #4 by lupa08 on January 27, 2017 - 11:34 am

      We’ll get there, I’m sure. And I keep great things about the power of being in a writing circle. So glad we met.

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