Work has tried its best to stifle my creative endeavours this week. Regardless, I am pleased with my progress. And I thought, seeing as I’m such a sweetheart, I’d share this wonderful little editing tip with you guys…
Let’s say you’re working on a short story. You’ve edited the shit out of it. The first sentence is a work of genius, of course. Snappy. Sets the scene. A little edgy, maybe. And that twist in the middle with the scissors and the Andrex puppy…well, it’s just sublime. But even though you’re pretty sure that when you publish the fucker, it’ll jump to the top of Amazon’s chart and six months later, you’ll be overseeing a bidding war for the rights (it’ll probably be an HBO mini-series – that’s what your gut’s telling you), you know, deep down, it’s just not quite good enough yet.
Opening that bastard Scrivener file soon becomes a depressing chore, and that first line…isn’t it a little pretentious? Fuck it. Ditch the story and work on this new idea about a talking duck called Chlamydia. Oh man, your baying readership will just lap that one up.
Shame about the Andrex puppy story, though…
Pop psychology, perhaps, but I have found one of the main tricks of editing is the context in which you do it. Sure, you need to tidy up the plot and the grammar, but you also need to check that it’s enjoyable. Does it grab you? Is it funny? Scary? Beautiful?
So once I’ve gone as far as I can with editing at home, I save the work as an ebook and whack it on my Kindle. I read it on my morning commute.
“Whatcha reading there, sonny?”
“Oh, just this piece of literature I’ve been writing because I’m, like, so talented and artistic…”
My stories are just the right length to last a 25-minute train journey. And when I sit there, rattling toward Moorgate with all other miserable City cretins, I’m in my natural reading environment. I’m working through the story thinking This is crap or That doesn’t make sense and I’ll find glaring errors (and also really great elements) I didn’t notice when sitting on the sofa with my laptop on my knees, listening to a compilation of Strangelove B-sides.
I’ll make notes on the Kindle and then work through them that evening. The next day, I’ll repeat the process. It usually takes about 5 morning commutes before I can’t edit anymore. And that’s when I know it’s done: I finally enjoy my work as a reader.
Narcissistic? Probably. Useful? Certainly.
Another benefit to this practice is conquering the Editing Blues. After the first draft is complete, I find it all a little overwhelming. Edit. More fucking editing. Edit again. When does it all end? There’s nobody saying “Stop.”
The beauty of the Kindle read-through is that when I reach it, I know I’m about a week away from completion.
You’re probably aware of this crap already, but I found it very useful. Plus, it’s good to blog regularly, and in lieu of a clutch of snarky insights into my personal life, some basic editing advice will have to suffice today.
Check back around Wednesday for the heartfelt angry shit.