Saturday, 2 March 2013

On Editing: Part 2

I wasn't happy with the previous post on editing. 1) It was long-winded. 2) It came to my attention that the example I'd used didn't make much sense, which is fine, considering it's still in the early writing stage. But still, it shows that writers are often too close to their own work and it annoyed me that I didn't catch it.

I hope to rectify both of the above issues with this post.

So, let's take a look at how we can edit the new opening paragraph (two now actually) so that it's tighter:

Self-loathing. Robert knew all about thatself-loathing.

He stood by his car, parked outside the village cafe (Quick Fix), and viewed his new home. A manor which loomed in the distance, a relic from last century, with its back againsto the sea. It had only just sunk inHe'd only just realised that he owned the entire Pendleton Estate. And the manor was just what he needed. He could hide there from civilisation without risk of being disturbed and write.

That is a few words tighter. It makes sense. It's not perfect, probably. For starters, while it's tighter, I'm not sure I want to take out the 'Self-loathing' sentence fragment. I probably will, but I'm not 100% sure yet.

Anyway, let's take an example from a polished work now, which are two sentences from To Take A Life, which'll be published in the short story compilation when it's done (though I'll be having it edited by someone else before it's published, so there might be differences in the final version):

And then you find yourself wonderingquestioning if God existedthere was a god. If He didexisted, why would He let her die?

There wasn't really anything wrong with the previous version before I edited it. However, I realised I could say the same thing with less words without losing my style. That is why I made the changes.

Style is important, by the way. Never cut so much that your style is lost. It's a balancing act between cutting and trying to decide what should be more wordy for style reasons. Like, you might just be a more wordy writer than me. Lord of the Rings probably wouldn't have achieved the acclaim it has done if Tolkien had been told to cut down on wordiness. His books aren't for me, but that doesn't make them bad or him a bad writer.

For instance, if I may quote a certain passage from Lord of the Rings, chosen at random:

'For some time he had sat silent beside Bilbo's empty chair, and ignored all remarks and questions.'

Now, if I were to rework it:

'For some time, he had sat silentbeside Bilbo's empty chair, and kept to himselfignored all remarks and questions.'


'For some time, he had sat silentbeside Bilbo's empty chair, and ignored everything and everyone.' (Bit more clunky actually, in my view, with the two ands, but it's tighter.)


'For some time, he had sat silent beside Bilbo's empty chair, and kept to himselfignored all remarks and questions.'

However, while those three passages are tighter after being changed to how I'd write them, would you agree that there's a distinct difference in style there? What makes Tolkien Tolkien is gone.

And some people love him because of his writing style. Some people love him because of his world, stories and characters.

If the writing was made as tight as possible, it wouldn't be the same book. And it'd be like it was written by a different writer.

Again, I will reiterate that it's very important to develop your own style (whether for individual works or your work as a whole) and to not feel like you need to conform and always keep everything as tight as possible. The beauty of writing is the vast anount of different writing styles, language use and stories out there. If we were to all conform and keep our writing as tight as possible, then we may as well all write the same way.

What matters is keeping things as tight as possible while 'working within the confines of your own style' so that your style/voice is maintained. And this, to me, alongside editing to make sure everything is clear and reads well, is the most important part of editing. You can over-edit and basically lose any semblance of the unique style you have.

(And this was still long-winded. I'm trying to get the hang of blog posting, but at least the examples made sense this time.)

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