Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Circle of Editing

Editing is a good thing, right?

I think so too, but, like everything else, good things can become bad things if taken to excess. I cannot imagine how many great stories there might be out there that never made it to print, or even submission, because of overzealous editing.

I say this because I am guilty of it. I have countless projects sitting idle in my files right now that never made it to the finish line. Why? Because I edited them to death.

I am not saying that making your work is the best it can be is wrong. What I'm talking about here is editing compulsively while you are putting words to paper (so to speak) and getting your story down. For instance, I am currently twelve chapters into a project and am struggling to finish the story. This is because I have gone back into chapter one as I was writing another chapter to "read for ideas and inspiration" but ended up correcting misspellings and re-structuring sentences that didn't seem to flow right. The next thing I knew, I was adding characters and creating additional plot lines.

I say this because I know that I cannot be the only person that struggles with this incessant editing. Although I still struggle with it like an alcoholic struggles for the rest of their life, I've found a few things that help me move past it.

First, I do my best to following the well-worn advice of writing first to get the story down, and then editing. This is difficult because, as a growing writer, one always sees flaws in their work and wants to correct it immediately. I can only hope that, as one matures as a writer, they start to put better ideas to paper the first time.

Next, when in a slump, stop and think about your story. Analyze the timeline and character growth. I keep another file for this and it can sometimes get very full with ideas and alternate timelines. The good thing about this is that it keeps one writing.

Finally, it is always best to make sure you take your writing seriously. A new story should be like a secret only you know about; something you go to when you want to get away. I don't know anyone in my situation that just writes full-time. Time is a precious commodity and should be treated as such. Sometimes I only have minutes to squeeze in some writing so I make it count. I tell myself I musts scramble to write. This immediacy actually helps me to get more done, along with staying away from any kind of Internet connection.

Hope this little statement helps somebody out there. I should be writing right now but am, instead, sending this work out into cyberspace.