On The Importance of Editing


Writing a book is easy.

Seriously, I know how obnoxious that sounds. I do, I do. I am not yet old and senile, and I do remembering toiling endlessly – for many years, in fact – before I ever even got to the point where I had a finished first draft of a manuscript to print out and hold in my hands and call my very own and feed and nurture and play with and change its diaper and take for walks and and and.

But seriously. Writing a book is possibly the easiest part of this whole thing. When people say that writing is hard work, they actually mean it. (I know, I was shocked, too.) Whenever someone says to me, “Gee, that’s so nice, I wish I had the time to write a novel,” I fantasize about scooping up an armful of rabid mongeese and unleashing them with the certain glee that they will devour the flesh of this troglodyte’s face.

(Side note: This is why I rarely talk about writing in public unless it is with other writers. And if you have easy access to rabid mongeese or other animals with pointy teeth and an insatiable appetite for human flesh, you probably shouldn’t either.)

This is relevant because I have spent almost all of 2011 rewriting and reworking projects. I say “rewrite” because “edit” sounds so banal. If I tell you I am editing a novel, it just doesn’t convey to you with the full force of the English language exactly how many screams, tears, anti-social evenings when you could’ve been singing karaoke while dancing on a barstool with a doubleshot of tequila in your hand, lost hours of sleep, or incredibly loud F-bombs have really contributed to the whole process.

Someone I don’t remember, who may have been anyone from Ernest Hemingway to Douglas Adams, once said “I’m a terrible writer. I’m an excellent rewriter.” That’s about how I feel right now.

Guys. This stuff is hard. But it pays off. It’s worth it. I am so much more excited about this story, this potential, this idea that I had once upon a time – and my enthusiasm grows by the day. This is why I always cringe when I see people querying or going on submission when it’s almost undoubtedly too soon. Without this painful, purifying mikvah of revisions… you don’t know what you’re missing.

Unless you’re one of those people who hate first drafts and for whom rewrites are easy, in which case ignore every word of this post and also, I hate you.