Let’s face it, no one writes perfect manuscripts on the first try. They just don’t. There is always something that needs to be fixed, tweaked, changed or updated. Every piece of writing has passed through an editor’s hands. Most of us, however, either don’t have a professional editor on hand to work over our artistic musings. So we fall back to the old standby – we self edit. We quickly learn, however, that editing and writing are not one and the same.
When we edit, we have to put on a different hat. We have to look at our manuscript with our own critical eyes, tweaking here, pruning there, and re-ordering and re-structuring almost everything that we’ve already written. It’s a hard, difficult, emotional process. We (hopefully) recognize our mistakes and how poorly our inane musings have leaked out onto the page. The story they tell is more on the state of the writer’s mind than on the storyline itself. But that’s part of writing. Writing is an art – a creative venture into a world that has never before been visited. Editing is taking that raw, barely-sketched idea, and turning it into a reality.
So what do we need to do? First, we need to let ourselves write really bad first drafts. We need to get the ideas on the page. We need to be able to write it down, take the thoughts and emotions that we know in our minds and leak them out onto a page where we can prune, nourish and encourage it into something amazing and beautiful. Second, we need to learn how to turn off our writing mind and turn on our editing mind. Let’s face it, sometimes we fall in love with that one part of the story that really just needs to be cut. We have to be willing to make the cuts and tweaks and edits necessary to enhance the entire manuscript as a whole. Just like we don’t let a rotten apple spoil all the other apples in the bag, we have to sometimes toss out bad lines, sentences, or even entire chapters. Let your inner editor cut what needs to be cut and insert suggestions where suggestions are due. Finally, we need to learn how to hit the “repeat” button. We write, we edit, we write some more to fix the edits, we edit those adjustments, we write some more. It’s a process. Pruning bit by bit until our small sapling of a novel turns into a towering majestic oak. Enjoy!