I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
– Oscar Wilde.
Wilde really captures the essence of editing. I’m working on the first draft of a novel I finished last year, re-reading and editing, editing and re-reading. Slowly, I’m eating my way through the story, rejecting words, changing sentences, removing dialogue. It’s tedious work, at times. Editing is hard, sweaty, knuckle breaking work. But it has to be done, of course.
I’ve heard of writers who think their stories through before they sit down to write them, then turn out novels that are practically ready for the printers. Not me though, and I suspect most writers are not like that. Most writers probably scratch their tired heads and hang, with slumped shoulders, over coffee stained, ink marked pages – removing one word here, adding another there, excluding entire paragraphs in some parts while filling in gaps and fleshing out text in other parts. Or my all time favourite – stare blankly at the scene where things suddenly don’t make sense at all any more.
Well, sooner or later I’ll finish the editing process with this draft. Hopefully within a couple of days. When I do, I think I’ll reward myself somehow.