Making sence of editing. 3

February 3, 2015

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Ah, Editing. It’s not my favourite. I forget, of course, how much I dislike it, until I have to do it again (and again and again) and then I remember. Ugh. Editing is a bit like childbirth and the finished product, The Book, also a bit like a baby. Someone else’s baby. It’s sweet, it’s dressed up, it practically coos! It looks like it just summoned itself up, got delivered by a stork, easy peasy, no sweat. Yeah, right.

 

Editing hurts. I don’t know if this is the case when editing someone else’s work (i.e. not your own), but I Thank the Heavens for clever, devoted, saintly editors who do that work, and I choose not to try it to find out. I’ll suffer my own editing and that is more than enough, thank you very much. Why is editing so painful? Sure, it’s detail work, searching for flaws, searching for things to be improved, and that is tiresome and takes a good deal of time. In fact, it seems to take all of the time you allow it. If your publisher gives you three weeks you’ll slog through twenty pages a day, every day, for three weeks. If they give you a year you’ll slog through it half a page a day and still wind up limp and exhausted. Why is that? No time is enough time. Never! Enough! Time! Because when you edit every single word becomes stupendously important, as though you are having to name your first born with it – “kind or sweet?”, “stern or earnest?”, “green or emerald?” – and on and on until you feel like your head is going to explode and you’ve just realised you use the word “serenity” three times in one chapter and is that too many times? Will people notice? Oh hell, they will notice. They’re going to hate me. I should give up now. It’s fairer to the planet.

 

That there is exactly why editing is so wretched – The Inner Voice. The (evil) Inner Voice is the part I always forget. Probably on purpose. Like a survival mechanism. The work of editing, however tedious, is a vital part of the writing process and I can bear it. The Inner Voice, however, takes the activity to new, intolerable levels. Imagine pruning a forest by hand, leaf by leaf, while someone loud and shouty towers over you hurtling insults… you got it. And you know it’s The Inner Voice when it shouts things like:

 

“You took so long to write this book and this, THIS, is it?!”

“This is terrible.”  “This cannot be fixed.”

“That page was so boring it made me want to set myself on fire.”

 

The Inner voice is the cruelest of the cruel. Take the worst Goodreads review you ever read, put horns and a pointy tail on it and starve it of food and water for a week. It’s a hater and it’s nasty {Note to actual haters: you can never outdo The Inner Voice. The Inner Voice is a pro. I’d hang up your hat if I were you.}

 

As you can probably already imagine – when I am editing I am an unpleasant person to live with. I blame The Inner Voice, of course, though to blame a voice inside your head for poor behavior is not exactly de riguer. So, most of the time, I just “go vague”. Internally I am fuh-reaking out about my dreadful work and impossible deadline and getting a severe emotional battering from The Inner Voice. Externally I’m all – “huh?” *wide-eyed blinking* For example, it takes me a good half a minute to recognize a friend calling my name in the supermarket. I put the car into reverse instead of drive (thankfully I also forget to take off the handbrake). My kids near tear off my sleeve before I notice they’re tugging on it. I also eat like a crazed animal; weird stuff like cereal and custard for dinner {to be fair I ate that post-editing but I like to think I was still in editing-hangover}. I wolf down chocolate and pie and marshmallows and anything else edible and within arm’s reach in a manner that even a wolf himself would be disturbed by. Then, when I’m not eating and when I’m not being vague I’m snappy, moody, irritable, inconsistent, impatient, extremely vulnerable and needy. It’s awesome. My family are thrilled.

 

Thankfully (ish), there are deadlines. Though it feels endless editing does have an end. You finally send off your manuscript with a disconcerting nausea and uncomfortably sweaty palms. Phew. And then, for all the hard work (the mental beating, the worry, the going vague, the anguish exacted upon friends and family) here’s the great news: there is always, always, always, going to be an error you didn’t notice. Always. It’s like the law or something. Perhaps the publisher is obliged to drop a couple in, for good measure, I don’t know, but for sure there will be one that will lead you to notice another – if you have grey hairs, like I do, like editing gives me, you know exactly what I am talking about here – and another…and another….{insert swearing at top of voice}

 

In only a few months time the fruits of my editing labour are going to arrive, in a box, on my doorstep. My heart will flutter and my breath will quicken. My husband will start taking a hundred deletable photos while I tear at the tape. Collective excitement will mount. I’ll feel like a rockstar for a few short minutes. I’ll become the opposite of my editing self – sweet, happy, easy-going, thrilled, “with it”, kind and generous.  I’ll notice and smile at my children, for example (so winning ‘Parent of the Year’). I’ll lift my new book out of her box and she will be beautiful. Clean and shiny with squeaky fresh pages. Flawless. Gorgeous. Perfect. And *zap* my brain will forget how horrible editing is.

 

Till next time.

 

Side note: This is my personal favourite, bad Goodreads review of my first book:

“This is an easy reading book. I feel that this book was not proof read enough. There were words that were mis-spelt as well as missing words in a sentences. Therefore, there were some sentences that didn’t quite make sence and that was a little annoying to me.

Overall, it was easy enough to read and quite predidable.”

 

HUGS,

Hannah x

3 comments

1 Ria Voros { 02.04.15 at 5:36 am }

Oh my god, that review! Priceless! Almost endearing in its clumsiness. Thank you for sharing that. I needed a giggle. Oh, Goodreads.

And, may you soon have no more editing to do and lots of celebrating to get into!

2 Hannah { 02.04.15 at 6:41 am }

Totally endearing, I love it!
Yup, I’ve got one more third to go…then final queries…then we’re done! And then U.S. edits….
x

3 Throwing Out The Kitchen — fork and fiction { 02.10.15 at 11:44 pm }

[…] week, Hannah said some great things about editing and it got me thinking about my own process. While I commiserate about the tediousness of the […]

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