Editing: The Time Spent Undoing/Improving Your Writing

It takes me roughly twice as long to edit anything as it does to write it.  I have no problem with this, because I’ve been trained to look at anything I write sort of like a painting.   I don’t expect to just sit down and slap some color on a canvas and call it a work of art — perhaps a work of art in progress, but anything more would be generous and naive. When I edit something I’ve written, the end product resembles the original only peripherally, most of the time.

To keep myself from becoming frustrated during the process, I have to walk away for a bit. There’s the original research and writing phase, then the quick edits for spelling and grammar. PhotobucketThe most time, I find, is chewed up (along with the project I’m working on) in the last part of my editing process: I edit the whole piece for consistency, tone, and flow.

After my work is submitted, I will sometimes have to go back and do an edit or two that are either fact checks or an image that isn’t working out for the story.

I don’t mind editing the work of other writers, particularly when I’m getting paid for it. Fiction writers are too close to their work sometimes to be able to make the edits necessary to clean up their manuscripts before they send them to a publisher, and this is both understandable and sometimes frustrating. Still, one day I might just decide to write fiction, and I’ll need an editor of my own. We’ll see if I can manage it with dignity and grace.



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7 responses to “Editing: The Time Spent Undoing/Improving Your Writing

  1. As a fiction writer, I can relate to your comment about being too close to the work to see it clearly. I think that sometimes, even when we know that a chunk must go, we hate the idea of deleting a section that we especially love. I won’t delete, but instead, I cut and paste my favored, but misplaces tidbits into an ongoing document I have saved titled “really good stuff for someday.” That way, I can console myself by thinking that in time, I’ll write the story with the perfect place for each of my beloved deletions.

  2. It’s so true, I spend more time editing than writing. In fact, I could go back and edit everything I’ve written again and again. Sometimes I just have to say that’s it.

  3. I edit too much as I write, so it’s hard for me to finish a draft and THEN edit. I pick it apart while I’m going, and then read it over, have others read it, change a bit more, rinse and repeat. I really want to work on completing a draft and then giving it a good edit before having anyone else read it.

  4. I get lazy with my edits and I always regret it. The longer I write the more important I realize editing is. I wrote my book Bad Girl Gone Mom (http://kbalbify.com) in about two months. Then I edited it 7 times in another two months. That was much harder for me to do, but I am glad I spent the time working 18 hour days in three day intervals to go through each iteration of the 300 pages of work.

    Having a second set of eyes also helped me. Hiring a professional editor was the bomb, but believe it or not, I still found errors and went through it one more time.

    Now it is published and I am proud of my accomplishment. Writing a 400-600 word article or even writing a 10 page paper for school is totally different from writing a book in terms of time and tenacity, but the basic tenants are still the same. I wish you luck and know that you can do it when you put your mind to it.


  5. I edit while writing so it seems I’m never done.

  6. The funny thing for me is sometimes I can’t see the mistakes until after they have been posted. I find them much easier in a preview screen than I do in a document.

    • Me, too! There’s something about the larger format, maybe, or the fact that the layout spaces it differently than I’m used to seeing that allows me to catch things I hadn’t otherwise noticed.