Friday, April 29, 2011

On Editing

I got really frustrated in my classes at school by how many people don't get what editing is. They all treated "editing" or even "revising" as the time that you run spell check, check your punctuation usage, and other grammatical, technical things. Then they'd turn in a perfectly spelled, grammatically correct paper, and be absolutely befuddled as to why they didn't get an A.

Editing is so much more than that. Revision is quite literally Re Vison, to see again. It requires that we look at our writing through new eyes.

All the technical aspects like spelling are of course important, but the most important thing about your writing is your ideas. And it doesn't matter if your ideas are spelled correctly if they are poorly crafted and don't convey the meaning you want them too.

When I write, I always just bang out a first draft without any editorial efforts whatsoever. I just want to get my ideas down on the page before they float away. Then I read it through and write a second draft. Maybe it's almost exactly like the first draft, but things are organized a little differently, phrased a little differently. I keep poking over each idea I want to write about, or each section of the plot if it's fiction, until the words on the page communicate exactly what I had in my head. Sometimes it can take a lot of drafts for that to happen.

My mom writes poetry and when she was working on her first book, she filled up an entire laundry basket with revisions. These days she doesn't print as much to save resources, but if she did, it would probably take two laundry baskets for one book. That's because she won't rest until her work is the best she can make it, and then sometimes she still doesn't rest and we have to convince her that it really is time to let it go out into the world.

But maybe you're not trying to write a book, just a blog, like this one. This is how I edit my posts.
  • First I write a rough draft of my ideas, get the basic structure of the post going.

  • Then I go through each idea presented and make sure that I've said exactly what I want to, that it's not too wordy or vauge. Sometimes I remember something I forgot so I add that in.

  • Next I add in any outside material that further adds to what I want to share, links, videos, photos.

  • Now comes the first technical aspect - layout. Walls of text are not much fun to read, so I make sure that my ideas are broken up in paragraphs. Sometimes I realize that maybe one paragraph needs to be further split into more paragraphs, or even rewritten entirely. Lists are also useful, but only when used in a way that fits the flow of what you're saying.

  • After my post is 99% complete, I hit the preview button and read through it as if it wasn't mine but written by someone else. If I like it, I move onto the final stage. If I don't like it, I go back and re-write any clunky sections and replace repetitive words.

  • Finally, I give it one last read through for spelling and typos. Only then do I finally hit Publish.
Sometimes this process is very quick and I can put up a post in an hour, sometimes a post will stay in draft form for days or even weeks until I can get it into top form. And sometimes a post never gets published at all and I recycle the ideas in either a different post or another work of writing all together.

1 comment: