Editing … or Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – part 6

Stories are best understood when they are read straight through. No interruptions. In a perfect world, that’d be the way to do it. Even if the book is 1,000 pages, it would do a person good to start reading and then finish what he is reading in the same sitting. Or at the very least, within a short time frame. But hey, I’m sure that doesn’t happen very often. I, for one, can’t sit and read for more than 15 minutes. If I’m thoroughly engaged, then yeah, I’ll stretch that time limit. It’s not ADD, it’s just a lack of interest. Or lack of patience. Or I’ll remember that I have other things to do like, run an errand or something. But if the story is good enough or if my mind is clear, I’ll stall a while. I’ll wait until I get to a good stopping point. There’s always that point in the story where I, the reader, can take a break.

I find my editing process to be like that more often than not. I’ll look for those breathing points, taking 15 minutes to reread certain sections rather than read all the way through. This is ideal if all I’m doing is reading, but I’m not. I’m changing things too. And that’s a slippery slope if you’re going over your work with a fine-toothed comb.

It’s better to do a thorough read of your work when you’re editing. This is of utmost importance. Selecting pieces and parts of a story as you go along can be harmful. Just as much as a reader doesn’t start in the middle of a new book, neither should a writer when editing his work. The times when I’ve returned to my work and just “picked a random spot” have been the most frustrating for me as a writer. I find myself being disillusioned by the part I’m revising, angry that the tone or feel just isn’t living up to my expectations.

That doesn’t sound right.
That doesn’t feel right.
That doesn’t fit with that.

This can be dangerous for a writer. Unless you’re catching the emotions and thoughts from prior sections, you may feel like your work – as a stand alone – is missing something. But don’t freak out. It is missing something. What it’s missing is the rest of the story. The feelings, the added conflict – everything that makes up the entirety of what you’ve crafted. If you need another analogy, think of it this way: architects and builders don’t build the roof before the foundation. They begin with the foundation, aka the beginning, and work from there. The same should be the case with revising and editing. Once you’ve done a few reads, you’ll find that your brain will recognize those sections where you could do something different. Or you could say something better. It’ll never be altogether perfect, but you can certainly get to a relative state of peace so long as you make the effort to understand as much about your work as possible. Then, you can give it over to another set of eyes if you wish.

This is something I’ve been working on as I go through this story. Where, when, and how to do effective editing. I feel like reading through my entire work can be overkill but it’s also necessary. Otherwise, I may run the risk of changing too much out of context. A delicate balance, but once again, a necessary evil. And it’s definitely an evil to any person who can be as impatient as I can be.

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