Edit is not a four-letter word

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.”

~ Robert Cormier

I’d be willing to bet everyone who’s published a novel has been told once or a hundred or a thousand times, “I always wanted to write a book.”

My standard response? Go for it! You may enjoy telling stories, creating worlds, bringing characters to life.

I love crafting stories, even if it never turns into more than a fun short for my own pleasure. But if you’re writing for other people’s enjoyment, the expectation level should rise. A lot.

Once that first draft is hammered out, the real work of writing begins. Some people groan about revisions and editing, but I enjoy it. Smoothing transitions, finding the rights words, building in layers of meaning, subtle foreshadowing, and (oh, so important!) killing our darlings – also known as cutting the boring parts, losing the overwritten, the purple prose.

To me, the most important question to ask as I revise is: Am I bored here? The wonderful teacher and writer Margot Livesey, put it like this: if you are bored, it’s not because you’ve read that section so many times. It’s because it’s boring.

My favorite editing technique is reading the manuscript aloud. Sometimes my fabulous hubby willingly listens while he’s driving. (We have a cabin in the mountains, a couple of hours away from our home). Speaking the dialogue tell me in a hurry if it’s flat or stilted. An awkward silence tells me he’s losing interest. Either one results in an immediate note in the margin – do I need this scene? Tighten? What’s the point? Is there a better way to convey what’s needed to move the story forward?

Authors, care to share an editing technique? Readers (which of course includes writers!), what’s your pet peeve for poor editing?

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