Guest Post: Editing Sucks

The lovely Susannah A. Martin was the author of the 1,000th comment on this blog, and was rewarded with the opportunity to write a guess post for my billions of viewers to read. And here it is:

I want to make something very, very clear: I love writing. I really do. It’s hard for me to not spend at least part of my time writing on any given day. I would prefer to spend at least an hour or two a day just writing. But there is this one little thing about writing that I don’t like. Editing.

I completely hate editing, and it’s not just because it’s boring. It is, don’t get me wrong. It’s really, really, reeeaallly, boring. But that’s not the only reason I don’t like it. The whole idea of sitting down and reviewing and fixing something that I have already written and pronounced good is—distinctly uncomfortable.

I don’t like having to fix things. I know for certain that I will never purchase any of those do-it-yourself books on fixing stuff because I just don’t want to. I especially don’t like fixing things that I have created. It makes me feel like I’m ripping my own heart out. It hurts. I know the first draft of anything is never perfect, but that’s the way it feels to me. I do a lot of editing while I write anyway (that isn’t as bad somehow), so I think that I’ve done my best, that I can’t do any better.

And then I’m forced to read sentences and paragraphs and, God forbid, pages that are just, well crap. Garbage. I don’t like doing that. I don’t like admitting to myself that I messed up, especially on something like my writing. I don’t like having to change things. I know that I’ll always feel better when the editing is over, and it will make my material more readable and pleasant, but I just don’t like it.

Let me illustrate this for you. I started writing my first book, Super Star, when I was 15 during spring break. I finished writing it a year-and-a-half later. It is now almost Thanksgiving of my 17th year. By all accounts, I should be done editing the blasted thing by now, but I’m not. Part of that had to do with how long it took other people to finish their editing of it, but most of it is that I just don’t like the process. When I do get down to work on it, it usually only takes me a day to edit one chapter. My book only has thirty chapters. I am at the beginning of chapter 22. I have nine chapters to go. Given what I already told you, this should take me about nine days. But it won’t. It will probably take me a month or so.

The good news is that it’s getting easier as I do it more often. With my book in particular, it’s getting easier because, shocker, I got better at writing after a year-and-a-half. Therefore, there’s less to edit than there was at the beginning of the book. Which is awesome. So maybe I will just hunker down and finish the bloody thing. It can’t be nearly as painful as the tripling up on calculus homework that I have to do.

Thanks for writing this, Susannah!

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13 thoughts on “Guest Post: Editing Sucks

  1. ‘Kill your darlings!’ We all need to edit even when it hurts. I have just cut out 16 thousand words from my YA novel. It took me three months and now my book is more lucid. I found the main character’s thought process was interrupting the pace of the story. She was too introspective. Editing is part of the process whether you like it or not. Publishers will not accept your work if you send the first draft. Don’t worry because writing books will show you how to do this and I presume you’re reading them because you love writing and one of the things we must do to enhance our skills is ‘read, read and then read some more.’ That’s if you’re serious, of course. There are no shortcuts but you can take heart in knowing that when you knuckle down and focus on learning to write, you will get better with time. 🙂

  2. Nice guest post! I know it sounds weird, but I really like editing. I often have to stop myself from editing things infinitely. And it goes for everything I write, from my honor’s thesis in college, to blog posts (I often hit the 25+ revisions mark on WordPress), to just regular, everyday emails. But if I wrote a whole book and had to go back and edit the entire thing, start to finish…yeah, that would take a while. Best of luck!

  3. First Susannah, this was a wonderful read. I can completely understand you apprehension to edit what is already completed. I have had that issue as well. Recently, I was working on the beginning of a novel. I made my quick pass and moved on to write more. Then as I was over 5000 words into the piece, I went back and “retooled” first few chapters. Three days later, I felt the piece was much tighter. Did I like doing it? No, I would have rather spent my time adding new material. Was it beneficial to what I wrote after? Yes, I started to look at how I was writing and adjusted.

    In my blog post, I go through two or three edits (usually working with another person to assist in making it better). I used to just write and publish. Now, I am going back through all the post and doing the editing I should have done in the beginning. I HATE THE PROCESS. Sorry, if that seemed a little emotional. It happens.

    Thanks to your guest post, I have found your site as well and I am enjoying that what you have published there. Great job on this and your other works. Good luck on your novel. Keep us posted.

    -Jerry B

  4. I worked as a sort of paid intern for an editor this summer, and although I absolutely love writing, I HATE editing with a passion! I mean, I want to go to college as a writer when it’s my time in a couple years…. but don’t make me do any serious, fine-tooth-comb editing…or I’ll kill you.

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