Thursday, June 28, 2012

Editing Requires a Thick Skin and a Sharp Eyes

Did you catch the error?  Look again. It' s not always so easy to see misspelled words. In other words, editing is tough work. But it’s got to be done. It's no wonder students resist it. How often have I tried to edit a student's work only to have them sneer at me and refuse to make the changes? Or, a student might feign compliancy but then keep the original text. The bottom line is that writing is subjective on every level. If we can keep that in mind, as writing instructors, then we can find ways to preserve the emerging writer's sense of identity as a writer. Handle with care should be the motto.

Nevertheless, most published authors and professional writers agree, that an objective party is the best way to ensure the piece is polished. But, on the other hand, editing can be overdone too. I know that each time I revisit a completed passage and make changes, I increase the risk that I will omit a period or comma or leave off a letter. As for the content, that's a matter of reorganizing, slashing, rewording, clarifying etc. A job that I need to do myself.

I stumbled upon a blogger by the name of Jeff Goins; he is the author of the eBook, The Writer's Manifesto. Check it out if you're so inclined.  At any rate, the blog was aptly titled Why Writers Can't Edit Their Own Wrok. (I'll tell you that I didn't catch that, initially).  He had excellent ideas that included the writer being biased and too subjective. The writer needs fresh eyes, someone that is not so attached to the work;  In the comments section it was a mixed bag—accomplished authors felt comfortable enough editing their work, but others agreed with Jeff.

I'm on the fence. I've used another pair of eyes and, still, errors remained. And sometimes it becomes confusing when someone eidts (oops, edits)  and asks you to change content (which happens) and you disagree. Sometimes, it's wise. But other times, maybe not.  How far do you go?
Bottom line: You are the creator; you don't always know why you write what you write; often times, it is on an unconscious level; it is aesthetic; your original writing is authentic and significant so don't alter it too much or it will become like a misshaped top, never returning to its original form;  trust your instincts; trust that you know what you're doing and avoid self-doubt.
Caveat: Don't ever think that you have to keep something that isn't moving the plot along or adding to character development. It may be a whole page or a chapter or more that you end up omitting. So be it. Try to think of it as liberating, opening space, cleaning house. When you discard words, passages, characters,  you open doors and allow new ideas to enter.
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