I Hate Editing.

I finished the first draft of Test Tube Beneficiary three weeks ago. I haven’t looked at since, because I wanted to give myself some distance. But it’s time to start editing, revising, and generally hacking away at it to get it into shape for submission. Last night I printed off a hard copy and marked up the first two pages.

Then I fell asleep.

This is going to take awhile.

I’m trying to keep in mind the advice Stephen King (I seem to refer to him a lot, but why not? he’s written a lot of good books) received from an editor who rejected one of his early short story submissions. I can’t find the quote in my copy of On Writing, but 37signals quotes the book the way I remember it:

Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: “Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.”

Enough stalling. Time to get the knife and start cutting. I hope I can use the scalpel, and not the ax.

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6 responses to “I Hate Editing.

  1. Speaking as a freelance editor, it’s all about the words. If you don’t need them to clarify the sentence, take them out. If the sentence is unclear, change the words. Less really is more with writing, and any good editor or agent will tell you that.

    Also, make sure your first page really grabs their attention- often that’s all that gets read before a decision is made as to whether a manuscript is purchased or even considered for purchase.

    I wrote a short post on my blog about the book “Hooked”- written for short story and novel writers about how to write a beginning that gets your book noticed. Stop by and read it if you get a chance.

    And good luck with your editing!

  2. Thanks – I’ll take a look this afternoon.

  3. Quoting King on editing is a bit rich. I recall an interview with Peter Straub, talking about their collaboration on the book TALISMAN. “Steve hates editing,” Straub says, “but I love it”. You can certainly tell “Steve hates editing”–his books are bloated, over-written and melodramatic, exhibiting all the faults of self-indulgence. Steve, of course, is too big and popular to accede to editorial advice, has been for years. And that’s why he just keeps getting worse and worse…

    “I don’t get original ideas, only bounces,” (Stephen King). If you’re looking for literary heroes to emulate, why choose a writer who considers his body of work to be the equivalent of a “Big Mac”? Instead, draw your inspiration from real artists, like Flaubert, who used to spend weeks on a single page, debating whether a certain sentence required a semi-colon or a comma.

    THAT’S art.

  4. Eh bien, merci pour votre sentiments. Je vais y réfléchir, mais j’aurai besoin de beaucoup de temps pour répondre en raison des virgules.

  5. Cliff,
    King may not *take* his own advice all the time, (I agree his books are going downhill) but it *is* good advice!

    Unfocused, check out Ken Rand’s Ten Percent Solution… it uses the 10 percent rule King’s editor cited, and it almost, almost turns editing into a game. At least, it will help you hate it not so much, because it gives the line-editing a definitive end-point. Which is one of the problems with editing… not knowing when a work is truly done.

  6. Thanks for the recommendation, Dawn – I’ll check it out.

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