The Red Pen Ponders

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I used to dread the red pen phase.

The cross-out conundrum.

While I find it less annoying now, I still recognize the roller coaster ups and downs that go along with the process.  But that is just it, though, it is a key component to the process.

Late nights are the moments where my mind gallivants and wanders about. A few nights ago, editing just happened to hang heavy.

I questioned the following:

What are the reasons we edit?

And—

When is the right time to edit?

And—

When is editing 100% finished?

The Reasons: We edit for obvious reasons, to chase down spelling errors, grammar mistakes, awkward phrasing, and more. But I asked myself something more. Do we edit to make ourselves enjoy a piece better? Or do we edit to improve the piece for all audiences?

I find it strange to be in the position of editing someone else’s work. Why? Well, sometimes I don’t really know what to look for. Even if they have immaculate spelling and perfect grammar, what should I spot and find next? If I like the piece, why would I offer for them to make changes? If I didn’t like the piece should I offer ways to improve it and what should those ways be? What if the reason I didn’t like it was because it was not my style of writing?  Therefore, my edit would be to incorporate styling that I enjoy more. But in truth, the piece was pretty amazing in the current style, but based on my likes, I had trouble seeing that fact. In that instance, I would only be editing for my eyes, not anyone else’s.

See the dilemma?

Should I edit to make myself enjoy it?

Or should I edit to make all audiences enjoy it?

But how will I know my suggestions are actually bettering the piece for all readers?

Editing kind of sucks.

When I edit my own work, I am essentially trying to improve myself because I know who I am as a writer and I am fully aware of the quality of work I can produce.  Editing for yourself and others is an entirely different experience.

The Time: I used to say, “Wait until you are finished, get all your ideas down, then edit.” But now?  I am not so sure.

Recently, I have been editing after every chapter.  What I mean is, I read a chapter several times before continuing on.  It counts as my “Stop and Process” time before I dive into more plot unfolding.

I look for spelling and all that edit-y stuff.

I add on.  I take away.  I question.

At least twice, maybe three times.

This is not to say, however, that I will not read, re-read, and re-re-read after the book is complete.  Because I will.

But I like to give each chapter its own moment to be read, appreciated, and changed.  It keeps me on my toes and on top of my work as I go.  Plus, sometimes a sentence will slip out in the wrong tense or perspective.  Better to catch it now, than never.

The Finished Line: The final crazy editing thought I had the other night was the wondering of when editing is ever done.

If I edited a piece of work of what I believed was the best, high quality content and passed it on to another person, they would give their recommendations and suggestions. Let’s just say I made those changes and gave it to another person.

The process repeating.

Each person would have something new to say or add.

Even in books I read today I would suggest my own edits and I wonder why their editor never questioned something.

So is editing ever done?

Maybe the answer to that question circles back to my first and it all just depends on the reader after all.  Are they editing for themselves to enjoy?  Or for everyone?

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