Editing Thyself

Friday, March 19, 2010

Last night, toward the close of my talk at Rosemont College (what a fine group of people), a question came up from the very back row: Can you tell us about how you go about editing?

I answered thusly: The work begins with paper and pen, scribbled at some strange hour in handwriting I can barely interpret a day or so later. I then rewrite my scribbles, still with pen, making numerous changes as I go. Next I'm on the computer, typing things in, and here again, every sentence is weighed, and many are shifted. Two pages at a time, typically, and when the next two pages are layered in, they never quite fit with the first two pages, so editing begins again in earnest. Every time new pages come in, I'm reading back, several pages, then reading forward, to help achieve a seamlessness. And all of that leads to a first draft, which is only a first draft and never nearly a whole.

It is creating the whole, I indicated, that is in the end the hardest thing. It's easy to write sentences. It's possible to write passages. Often chapters congeal. Books, entire books, remain, to me, a mystery. Sometimes I get there. Sometimes I don't. My drawers are littered with lovely passages that never found their home.


bermudaonion said...

I'm amazed that you start the writing process by hand. Maybe that's why your words are so beautiful and well chosen.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I write everything by hand as well. Typing on the computer inhibits my creativity.

Elizabeth Spann Craig is hosting a whole series on editing at her blog. My take on it is today's, but she has several other authors voicing their take on the subject.

Tara McClendon said...

I would love to write everything by hand, but I've switched to the computer to save time. Sometimes if I have a difficult time making something connect, I'll write it. There's something about the soft hitch of the pen gliding across the page that inspires.

septembermom said...

I also enjoy writing by hand. I somehow feel more connected to the words. I love that last line of your post.

Beth F said...

Editing thyself is so difficult. No problem editing someone else's work . . . my own? I'm usually cringing, finding errors days and weeks later. I obsessively read and reread my blog posts, tweaking here, correcting there.

Good writing takes work, but your work always has the feel of having been born full-grown.

Becca said...

Your sentences are always so lovingly and carefully wrought, and I now know why. Such patience and fortitude this process must take! I am in awe, again :)

(I also liked to write by hand, but often have the problem of being unable to dechipher the words the next time around.)

kristen spina said...

I had no idea that you write by hand. I simply can't keep up with my thoughts when using a pen. And it frustrates me, so I start and finish on the computer. But there are oh so many drafts--too many to speak of--between.

It's funny. I can't write anything by hand anymore. I'm frustrated by a simple thank you note. My penmanship clearly reflects my lack of practice.

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