What if you could look back on your life and edit it? Would you remove a bad relationship? Would you gain a new respect and appreciation for how it has all turned out? Would looking back allow you to make better decisions in the future? Aristotle said it best, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
As writers, our works tend to take on a life of their own. Where we can’t go back in time to change our own life, we can enjoy the gifts editing gives us in our work. Allow me to share a few I uncovered.
Editing provides us with the gift of introspection (The examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes. Google). As I read through my draft, I found that I learned more about my characters than I put in their original sketches. They reveal more about their complex makeup than they did in the first basic draft. They want you to know how they click, what makes them unique.
Editing allows us to define our thoughts. To take the broad brushstrokes that gives us the general impression of an idea and accent them with them with finer strokes to create a sharper image. It’s the difference between “I saw a cat cross the road” and “As I gazed across the street, I saw a tabby feline darting in between horse hooves in a successful attempt to cross over to my side”.
Editing allows us to experience a greater depth of feeling. We want our readers to feel as strongly about our story as we do, and not just the story as a whole, but the highs and lows, the suspense, the horror, the romance. In the early draft, we swim along, treading water, sometimes daring to dive off of a pier into the murky waters below. In subsequent drafts, we learn to explore the depths, coming up just enough to catch our breath.
Editing allows us to expand our love of language. Writers love the written word. It abides in our soul and trickles out of our fingertips. What we may not be able to convey in speech, we roll out with gusto in our works. I wonder if the acclaimed master, William Shakespeare, was equally nimble with his conversation as he was in his written works. Or was he did he keep his eyes and ears open for the snippets of brilliance he wove into just the right places? We imagine him as the words jumping straight from his mind to his quill, perfection in the first draft. I will guarantee that didn’t happen.
We writers spend most of our time, whether it be in our lives or our stories. So, instead of looking at the job of editing your work as a chore, try seeing it as an opportunity to expand the scope and depth of your work.