The ABC’s of Editing
By Dorothy Seehausen
Remember the saying, “Those who can write, write; those who can’t, edit.”? As an English teacher and long time wielder of the dreaded red editing pen, I have found both with characteristic challenges. I would hope, however, that whoever is critiquing my work knows a little something about what makes a good story.
Why, then, does editing one’s work seem so daunting? I believe it is because the creative aspect that we enjoy so much with our first drafts is missing when we start to edit, and we are faced with the application of a plethora of rules, directions, best practices, and….worst of all….the impending death of passages of some of our best work. These are the unkindest cuts of all.
To ease the task, I am finding critiques and feedback from writer friends an immense aid. To have objective eyes of a beta reader or colleague or even a supportive family member reading your final draft creates objective responses your first draft eye often misses.
Keep in mind the three kinds of editing: developmental (story structure); line editing (I call this wordsmything, finding the right word for the right job); and the final proofreading edit even your spell checker misses. They are all different tasks with different goals.
The most important consideration I have found is to develop a system you can adhere to. Read editing blogs. Find out how the pros edit. Use checklists. And take those feedback notes seriously, clicking off what you the author agree with, and what you don’t. There is no greater feeling than having a polished piece all your own ready to submit to the world eagerly awaiting your prose!
Happy Writing from the Frog!
Check out my latest short story “Trace” in the October issue of The Mantelpiece Magazine at themantelpiece.org.