How to: Revel in The Joys of Editing

So I’m writing a memoir, right… and I have like 10,000 words, which feels awesome, because it seems super far along. The thing is, the majority of those words are from two or three years ago, and, let’s just say I’ve grown and developed as a writer a lot since then.

They’re dreadful. Like, absolutely unreadable, and I’m not just being critical or modest or any other modifier you can think of. They are, quite simply, bad.

To put it into perspective for you, I formatted everything double-spaced and printed it out so I could edit by hand–which is my preference. The pages are full of single-line crossed out type–or, if particularly “ugh” inducing, entire paragraphs are X’d out–and the white space is entirely filled with a significantly more developed re-write. To be fair, every fiftieth line or so I’ve circled a phrase I like to use in the edit.

I was avoiding going through my 10,000 words for quite a while now because I knew it was going to be a mass operation of edits, which just feels like such a huge undertaking. Plus, I had a feeling that the caliber was like catching the T in Porter Square [low].

Aside from being a lot of work, editing actually is super validating in a lot of ways: it gives you the ability to see how you’ve developed, an opportunity to implement some new strategies or varying formats, to cut out unnecessary bits that bog down the pacing, and, in my case, to make the lead character [me] relatable instead of a giant, whiny victim the reader kind of wants to see get pushed around and slapped a bit.

Editing is one of the great things about the writing process. Think about it: you’re gonna write crap at some point, probably most of your first drafts will be crap splattered all over a good idea, and editing cleans up that good idea… and maybe sprays some cologne on it.

It’s pretty relieving, to just let yourself write a bunch of crap and know it doesn’t have to stay crap forever. Editing lets you explore so much more than a first draft; in draft phase you’re just getting down the sketch of an idea, but editing lets you try out your idea infinite ways until you find the one that fits. How great is that? You know what’s also great? workshopping your drafts with other writers and sharing ideas. Way great!

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