Monday, September 5, 2011

On Editing

Why do we edit?

What do we edit out?

Who are we when we edit - authors, readers, critics, or trolls?

I edit because I want people to read my story.  Not just because a poorly edited novel is less likely to be read, but because a story with poor grammar, poor word choice, and poor pacing really is almost unreadable.  How can my readers know what I say, if they have to pause every page to figure out what I've just said?  I write for people.  People don't like to have to battle a paragraph to find the meaning behind it.  They just want the story.  And when they have to stop to think about what was just said, then they're not getting that story.

I edit out anything that makes me go, "huh?" I'm not talking about philosophical questions that are supposed to make the reader thing.  A well-written story is a self-contained universe. I'm talking about anything that breaks me out of the world, that sends me back into the real world instead of the one within the book.  That means overlong monologues, sidequests without significant story development, downtime that doesn't have a purpose, description of unimportant things (and sometimes important things that simply aren't affected by how they look), and anything that doesn't make sense.  It also means I put things in: transitions, time-jumps, 'downtime' with significant plot points, dialogue markers to determine who is speaking.  And that's just the beginning.

I am evil when I edit.  I destroy my beautiful novel, my beautiful baby - I alternately stuff her with new scenes and slice off old ones.  I am a surgeon.  I am a troll.  I wield a club, a sword, an axe, and a sewing needle in the same hand.  I cry.  I scream.  But before all that - I read.

I read, because that is what I want someone else to do.  I read my own novel as if I hadn't written it, and I try to find all the places that, as a reader, I get thrown out of my fantasy world.  And I fix all those spots, and think about what I think is missing from that writer's story. I am not her critic - I am not her fan - I am just a reader, given a new novel to read, and all I want is to read the story.  Except, unlike every other book in the world, here I really can make the changes that I want to make.

So I do.

And I think that, perhaps, is one of the biggest reasons I write.  Because when I'm writing the story, I can fix it.

That is why I love editing.

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