The Eternal Edit

I wrote long, profane piece about how the Paris attacks brought out the racists (Blinks of Bicester) and the mean pricks (this piece of sanctimonious clickbait), but I got rid of it. I guess you know about all that crap already – you seem like a smart bunch.


So…writing…life etc.


I had a wisdom tooth removed. If you’ve been following my riveting Twitter feed, this will come as no surprise. If you haven’t, follow my fucking Twitter, yeah?


My brother calmed me beforehand by sending me pictures of Dr Szell from Marathon Man.

Is it safe?

Siblings, eh?

Anyway, during the consultation with the surgeon (nice chap considering he had a goatee), I was told he could simply sedate me rather than put me under general for the procedure. I’d been trying to write some horror around that time and I thought that being awake during this horrific, bloody extraction would give me some great material.

A true artist suffers for his art, right?

Unfortunately, the sedation was far stronger than I realised. He put a needle into my vein and 30 seconds later I was in La La Land. I enjoyed that. But the next thing I knew, I was sitting in the recovery room, pushing a gauze onto the bleeding hole in my gum and saying to the nurse, “What’s the name of the drug you gave me? I’d quite like to get my hands on some.”

On the way home, the Uber driver and I sang along to Tupac together. It was a riot.

However, the gory details were in a locked box, deep in my overcrowded subconscious. Disappointing.

In the few days post-op, I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write due to the entire right side of my head feeling like it had been skull-fucked by Dirk Diggler. So I spent that time on the sofa watching films and TV shows.

I was underwhelmed with Jessica Jones, although it did convince me to get my hair cut like David Tennant.

The rest was trite horror (Knock Knock and The Green Inferno) and ridiculous blockbusters (Jurassic World and the first 20 minutes of Terminator Genisys).

At some point I started to watch Jodorowsky’s Dune – a documentary about a failed ‘70s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel by avant-garde director Alejandro Jodorowsky. It got rave reviews and has been hailed as The Greatest Movie Never Made. Now, I love the novel – it’s right up there with Asimov’s original Foundation Trilogy for me – but by the end of the doc I was very relieved this guy never got to make the film because his take on it was, frankly, fucking terrible. He reminded me of that ketamine-hazy dick I used to get stuck talking to at parties. They’d drone on, unprompted, about their art (or whatever) and how they had this vision, man. You know people who put themselves on some sort of artistic pedestal? I could never figure that out. Lazily, I put it down to bad parenting, but it probably goes deeper. Pop psychology notwithstanding, my evening would dwindle into boredom by this self-obsessed, fun-sucking vampire. I remember one called Susanne. Christ. She spent half an hour talking about her crap paintings and then called me a capitalist because I owned a TV. I said “Well how else am I supposed to watch Hollyoaks?” And that was the end of that conversation. Anyway, Jodorowsky – crap artist, self-deluded.


Returning to my sick-bed martyrdom, finally the cock was removed from my cranium and I got back to writing. I started editing a short story I’d been working on. Scary, concise; actually not too bad at all. I used my strengths (first person narrative, slightly skewed view on the world) and concentrated on my weakness (pacing and character). And then I edited it again. And then again. And then I realised I have scores of short stories I have edited the fuck out of until I am convinced they are terrible.


My question is: When do you stop editing? Because I really could keep working on the same 3,000 words for 10 years and I still wouldn’t be happy with them. Somewhere in the editing process, the vitality of my initial idea gets lost amongst these conventions I feel obliged to follow.

When do you draw a line under it all?


  1. I had a tooth extraction under local anaesthesia once, ask me anything… It is as bad as you’d imagine. Now I realize you never read my blog but I fan girl over Dune (the book) constantly (and David Tennant from time to time). It’s my favorite science fiction book, period.

    Not counting proof reading for errors, 4-5 edits is enough. If you’re still not happy with it, maybe there’s another story buried in the mess. Save your original draft and revisit it. Have you drifted too far afield, maybe? How’s the book coming?


    1. “Never” is quite the understatement. I swing by a lot, I’m just not a big commenter.
      So Dune…have you read the sequels? I’m up to God Emperor and I don’t think they’re at all as terrible as people make out, especially Children Of Dune, which I thought was excellent. Also, I have a real soft spot for the Lynch movie.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t mean to guilt you into commenting! (Yes I did). I’ve read Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, but only once each. I’ve read the original over again and I love the Lynch movie, too. It was on tv last weekend, I forgot about Sting!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I had a similar tooth extraction experience when I was 15. All four of my wisdom teeth were removed while I enjoyed first the pleasure of nitrous oxide (a quick visit to loopyville) before watching with some hilarity as I was then injected intravenously with sodium penathol (final destination – LaLa Land). Where our experiences differ is that the next few days for me were spent watching pretty colors swirling on the television thanks to some unknown pain pill (oh how I wish I knew what it was that I took).

    I’m glad you survived your ordeal.

    As for editing, I’m not qualified to give advice as I think I either edit too much or (more likely) not enough. I too could go on endlessly with rewrites, exchanging words, punctuation and grammar corrections, edits in tense and tone, blah blah zippity blah blah. At some point I just look myself in the mirror and say, “Publish it, you pussy!”

    For me it’s akin to being the last guy to jump off the cliff into the water below as everyone else is treading water and egging me on. Either I’m finally going to take the plunge or walk away.

    See, I told you. I’m definitely NOT the guy to ask about this. But thanks for the heads up on the Dune documentary. 🙂


  3. Ketamine-hazy dick, I identified with him immediately. Though ketamine wasn’t my self-medication of choice during my gate-crashing days, a Mandrax or two washed down with a four or five pints of Carling Black Label – yes, people like me did actually drink warm Canadian urine back in the olden days – worked a treat, as long as you woke with your memory wiped clean. The trick was to balance the piss and mandies with a couple of dexedrine spansules. We were in good company. In the days Lemmy could still be found feeding slot frenetically machines in what used to be called the ‘Alex’ down the Portobello, while flying on wings of whizz, or scoring in the Lonsdale, we all seemed to be living in a world enchanced by shit like ketamine. Lemmy, who got the moniker through constantly cadging a bluey (Lemme a fiver) once tried to buy the old leather biker’s jacket I bought from a friend of Johnny Rotten’s, according to Sheila Rock, who I was going out with at the time. I wouldn’t sell it as he didn’t have any money.

    Oh yeah, about over-editing. I consider myself a bit of an expert at it. As a good/bad example I can point those interested to one of the most over-edited short stories in the entire universe. I can’t recommend it enough, well, I can’t actually recommend it at all, that’s why I won’t post a link. But for those who like to profit from the mistakes of others, it’s called Enough for a Drink, and appears on my blog. Don’t go there, and don’t say you haven’t been warned.

    And that reminds me, I play a real blinder when it comes to name-dropping. Anyone up for it?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I heard Lemmy will actually die if he stops taking speed – his body is now chemically dependent on it. Now there’s something to aspire to!

    Enough for a Drink was excellent – thank you. Particularly this: “Unsolicited mementoes of his fleeting encounter with a methed-up pimp’s blade in a dark alley.”


    1. Thanks! So, there you are then; edit to bits and then try putting it all back together. I did, and it worked for you.

      To be honest, I really prefer stuff that’s much fresher, but I can’t seem to get the hang of how to do it as well as so many other writers can.


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