25 September, 2011

The Lure of Editing

Hello, world.

Editing is alluring. On the one hand, it's highly satisfying to go back and strip my prose down to the fewest number of words that can convey what I want to convey. Removing redundancies, choosing more precise adjectives, and grinding that paragraph down to a hard, diamond core is a nice feeling.

On the other hand... that's the very last thing I should be doing. It's a necessary step, yes, but it's still the very last step. It's a lot easier to attack a single paragraph and make it good, than it is to examine my story as a whole and realize that an entire 5,000-word chapter—or several—needs to be discarded, or rewritten from scratch, or (worst of all) moved to another point in the story and then partially rewritten. It's surgery of the mind, and it's terrifyingly difficult.

Distancing myself from declaring every first attempt "pretty good" is one of the fundamentals of good writing. My first attempts aren't any good. No one's is, except by occasional happenstance. Once I commit myself to the idea that writing is rewriting, that when I write a chapter for the first time I should wait a week, come back, and write it again from scratch without referencing the first pass... only then have I taken the first step.

And of course, just because I was able to do it once, doesn't make it any easier the next time.

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