The Pleasant Necessity of Editing

A blog is like talking to yourself, except without people staring.  Like the oft-stereotyped sidewalk prophet with the THE-WORLD-IS-ENDING placard, I can gibber on and on with no thought to structure or even sense.  Which, many would say, is perfect for me.  Including me, or so I thought.  I didn’t think I would so tongue-tied (or keyboard-tied as the case may be.  Ha.  I made a funny.  No?  You’re right, I didn’t.) in a blog.   You’d think the stream-of-consciousness kind of prattle would be easy.  But it doesn’t give you a real opportunity to EDIT.  One day, maybe two, that’s it.  That makes me uncomfortable.

The reasons?  Lots of them.  But mainly it’s because, while so many people who want to write seem to have trouble saying what they want to say, my trouble is shutting up.  I love words, using them, abusing them, bending them to my will (Bwa ha ha ha).  The more the better, like pennies in a jar you think?  Ah, no.  The trick, the hardest trick for me to turn (was that one funny?  No, still not?  Dang.) is to use more nickels, dimes, and quarters, fewer but stronger words to say the same thing.  My rough drafts, I have to admit, are liberal with the pennies.  There really, truly is such a thing as too much.

While I EDIT (and oh, I love to edit, I think it’s one of my favorite parts of the process, along with finding ideas, starting a story, finding the path that joins the main parts of the plot, and . . . anyway.  Shuttingupnow.) I try to find opportunities to cut.  For instance, let me examine the first half of once sentence from the first draft of my first completed novel.  “Terra’s gut slithered unpleasantly inside her at the sight of . . .”  First, your gut is your insides, so that’s an entire phrase replaced by one word.  And do you really need to clarify that it’s unpleasant for your organs to slither around inside your body?  No.  So it became “Terra’s insides slithered at the sight of . . .” and ends up sounding not only clearer but somehow more descriptive.

I’ve done the same thing with entire scenes, or, more challenging, cannibalizing scenes to distribute elements through different parts of a novel, or even to a different book in the series.  Once into a different series.  But I, as they say, digress.  Sometimes one detail works better earlier but another needs to come in later and yet other elements aren’t needed at all.  Taking five pages from one place to add half a page in two others can help streamline everything.

Be careful, though.  There’s athletic, and there’s starved.  I’ve read both.  I would rather read something slightly too plump than something that is skeletal in its stark wording.  “Don’t ever use a description for dialogue other than “said” is one example of advice I feel is taking it too far.  Whispered, whimpered, shouted, pouted, sniffled, snorted, wheezed, breezed, they’re all good ways to convey emotion and define a character’s reactions and personality.  So no, I do not agree that less is always more in writing.  There’s such a thing as too little, too.

Some writers/editors/agents/publishers/readers/critics—all right, that’s getting intimidating—will tell you to cut out all adjectives, adverbs, sometimes even most or all description.  I can’t and won’t go that far.  I do like to write (and especially read) some color, even stuff that would be considered flowery by today’s standards.  Fortunately, it’s all about opinion and personal taste, so if you don’t like my opinion and I don’t like yours, there’s still no need to argue.  Read all the skeletons you want, I’ll stick with my meatier, calorie-laden cuisine, and I expect the same consideration from you.

But that’s enough coffee-fueled babbling from my virtual soapbox for a while.  Happy reading, happy writing, happy editing or criticizing, whichever your role in today’s writing world might be.

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One thought on “The Pleasant Necessity of Editing

  1. J. M. Rosenberry says:

    Are you sick of my comments yet? Well tough. I am going through edit mode and have laughed myself silly with some of the gaffs i have found. It might go like this….Boy kills step dad then lets his friend drive his car all over town…OPS…Might the cops not be looking for said car and arrest the friend for driving it? More than likely, unless they live in Springfield and in that case i am going to blame Maggie…

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