I less than three editing
When I was eleven years old, my mother and I were at the grocery store. We were waiting at the deli for our order, when my mother saw a sign on a nearby display. CHEESE’S, it read.
Faster than you can blink, my mother had dug a pen out of her purse and was crossing out the apostrophe.
My family is really into proper grammar.
When I was in college, my degree program insisted I take a variety of writing courses that I had very little interest in taking: technical and business writing, logic. I was surprisingly good at tech writing, but I found my niche in editing.
Writers, as a group, hate editors. Now, it might be because I do enjoy self-loathing so much (it’s my sport), I am both a writer, and work freelance as an editor. I have never had quite the same visceral reaction to my work being edited as I have heard from other writers. The sight of red pen (or, in this computer age, red tracking marks) does not send me into a panic spiral. I have never been afraid to kill my babies or, really, kill the prettiest phrases that have ever jumped from my fingertips.
The last couple weeks have been taken up with editing the collabs I’ve written with Laila. The one was in its last round before being sent out for submission, and the second is in its first, messy round. I’ve been told writers can’t edit themselves, that they don’t have the distance, or the ability to be openly critical of themselves. Perhaps the majority of writers have healthier self-esteem than I, or a longer memory (have I mentioned I strongly relate to Dory, from Finding Nemo?).
I fell no compunctions when it comes to editing my work. I can slash and burn with the best of them, and have no real attachment to any words or phrases that I have wrought in the past. There is, actually, a certain satisfaction in picking apart, in cutting and honing, that I can’t even get from writing.
There is, indeed, too, a sense of purpose that comes with editing. Combing through words you wrote weeks and months before, pulling the story together tighter, as if with stitches, and seeing how the story turns into something you can feel proud of, and feel good about sending to – agents, editors, publishing houses, your mom, that is weirdly a rush I can’t quite replicate even in the telling.
I don’t know if I have a special skill, or if, as I said above, some kind of deficit: poor memory, masochism. The editing part of writing is just as natural, and needed, to me as the creating part. There is no violence in removal, I don’t think, just the beginning of something new.
Today has been reading, and rereading, and making words that sounded good together before sound fantastic. It’s like its only little reward: a tweak, a nudge, a pinch of salt – and then it’s exactly the way it should be.