January 12, 2016

Editing...slowly

I'm reading a fascinating book, The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity, by Louise DeSalvo.  For the past three books I have written I considered the edit the last thing I wanted to do.  Once I wrote I was impatient to get to press.

But this book has changed my thoughts on editing.  Let me examine this term "slow writing."

In the past I have been a "dumper."   I dump 1000 to 2000 words a day into my computer until I have a book.  I always let someone, some unconnected editor, deal with the detritus that I have created.  And yet, I have always been vaguely unhappy with the final result.  It is not really the editor's fault,  here's why.

GIGO.  Oh you know.  I've given them garbage and they have made a superhuman effort to make sense of it.

This all came to a head a couple of years ago when I submitted about 100,000 words of sheer mess to an editor friend who endeavored to tell me what was wrong with the pile of manure by cutting out about 35,000 words.

I was indignant.  How dare she?

Well she was right, of course.  GIGO.

I have written very few lines since then.  I seemed blocked.  But really I was fighting with myself about the importance of self editing before it even hits an editor.  The Art of Slow Writing has changed that.  It has taught me that the best writing comes with contemplating what one has written no matter how long that takes.

I've carefully selected a novella that I almost finished about 17 years ago (and started 25 years ago.)  Going against my impulse not to print it out to edit it (I'm awfully cheap when it comes to paper and printer ink), I am resolved to look at a maximum of only 5 pages each day, and edit it with a pen.  Yes, folks, that 19th century tool.



Perhaps it will be, when I am done many months from now, a present to you, my readers.  Stay tuned.