If November is National Novel Writing Month, does that mean December is National Novel Editing Month?
Editing gets a really bad rap. And probably for good reason. It’s the polar opposite of the free-flow creative process where the brain gets to play without restraint.
Editing requires attention and time. It involves rules and demands humility.
After writing eight novels, here’s what I’ve learned:
Editing isn’t about finding mistakes.
Editing is about finding the magic.
I edit both during and after I write. Not all authors do this, and many avoid editing at all costs. Why? Because the creative brain and the critical brain are like chocolate and broccoli. Although both have their benefits, I wouldn’t want them mixed together on my dinner plate.
Since I’m a “weekend writer,” I often have to make space for both writing (chocolate) and editing (broccoli) in the same day. I can enjoy both parts of the process if I cleanse my palate in-between. Fix lunch. Run errands. Do something else for a while. And hopefully forget what I’ve just written so I can judge it with a critical eye.
To do that, I print a hard copy of whatever I’ve written and take it for a walk. Armed with pages, pens, and my iPod, I stroll along the neighborhood footpaths, evaluating and making notes as I go. Something about being in motion helps the chocolate-to-broccoli transition.
When I first started doing this, I felt self-conscious. No one else was reading while they walked. I stopped caring as soon as I realized how well it works for me. Plus, I’m getting fresh air and exercise.
Isn’t editing about typos and run-ons and stuff that drives English teachers crazy?
Absolutely. It’s about that, too. If storytelling is a sort of magic, then mistakes break the spell.
That’s not to say there won’t be any. Even traditionally published books often contain an “oops” or two. However…
Editing isn’t about what a writer gets wrong. It’s about focusing on what’s right. Enhancing. Improving. Chipping away like a sculptor at a block of marble until the story’s final shape appears.