I’m gearing up to talk about Editing and Revising this Saturday at our monthly meeting (you ARE planning to attend, aren’t you? There’ll be snacks, and air-conditioning). Funny thing about writers: Mention rewriting or revising, and you’re guaranteed an eye roll, a groan, or a slump in even the squarest of shoulders.
Why do we feel so defeated by this step in the writing process? I have a few theories.
- Writing is more than arduous. It’s bloodletting. Once we’re finished, we want to be done. All done. Do painters splash thinner over large patches of their canvas two or three times before they declare their work complete? No. Why do we have to?
- It’s a division-of-labor thing. Why do we have to go find our own mistakes? Isn’t that why God made editors?
But that’s just not the nature of writing. Pencils have erasers. Keyboards have delete keys. And there’s a reason: We can make it better.
I am primarily a journalist. I get assignments (i.e., other people’ story ideas), I interview and research, and I write a story. I’m usually up against a deadline and don’t have much time for refinement. So I actually envy those of you who specialize in fiction and have generally open-ended timelines. You can go back, reshape, rethink, reimagine. This is a luxury.
More than once, I’ve had an article appear in print only to notice a minor typo or error (yes! I admit it!), or a missed opportunity for a great turn of phrase. And the forehead-smacking begins. It’s like thinking of a great comeback long after your nemesis has left the room.
Editing and revision is a discipline, one of those things we have to develop as a skill and a habit. Your story is a treasure. Rewriting is the tool that helps you find it. Sometimes it’s a pickaxe, and sometimes it’s a featherweight brush, but either way, it will help you unearth the gems hidden inside your first draft and polish them until they gleam.
Hope to see you this Saturday at 1:30 p.m., Rockwell branch library (address and map link are at right). Bring a work in progress, or something to write with, and we’ll conduct an exercise or two to illustrate the benefits of the rewrite.
Erin Perry O’Donnell
Freelance Writer and KWA Webmaster