Don’t Edit Out The Best Parts.

Ever notice how when you’re in editing mode, all of life can be edited?

Dog’s hair grown shaggy and uneven? Trim Edit it. The garden, tree limbs thrown everywhere? Edit it. The horses’ manes twisted into baby dreads by monsoon winds? Brush to edit.

I’ve edited radio commercials in my head that, with a few tweaks, sound even stronger. Same goes for television dialogue, presidential speeches, greeting cards, news articles and even the back of the Finesse shampoo bottle. 

In fiction, though, it’s the flaws and imperfections that make for original characters. I’d go even further and not call them flaws, but quirks — self-marks — that lend characters their unique, flesh and blood personas. 

Sometimes real means holding back  — resisting the urge to edit out the rawness and ruin the writing, even if it isn’t perfect. Perfectionism can masquerade as editing. Even worse, it can erase the best part: your voice.

Through your voice, you, the author, are a character in your stories. You leave your ambiance, your mental footprints behind. Too sterile, too perfect, and all is lost.

There’s a fine line — a tightrope walk — between revision –re-visioning — and nervous tinkering.

Grass need mowing? Edit it. Character imperfect, multi-dimensional, heart raw, hair shaggy?

Resist the urge.

8 Responses

  1. Emily, I just LOVE what you wrote here. I wouldn’t even know how to find this except I’ve learned how to click on links in Twitter. Now, I still have NO CLUE how to really use Twitter. But I’m here to tell ya – you still got it. Your writing is so beautiful and and so YOU. I love how you think.

  2. Very nice post. And timely, as I’m just printing off the WIP for the final edit & polish mark up before submitting. My inner editor is sharpening her red pen, and frankly – she’s scaring me.

  3. Beth! : ) Huge hugs for you.

    You sound like you’re doing just fine, twitter-wise! It’s not hard. You learn as you go.

    Made me smile to read your comment.

    Thank you. I’ve worked hard, and I’m soooo close. But that’s an email, not a public comment, so, I’ll write and we’ll catch up.

    All I know is, if I can write as well as you play piano, I have a chance!


  4. Kerry, that’s wonderful!

    Wishing you tons of luck. It never gets any easier, at least in my experience, but I can forever wave my pompoms and continue to cheer you on. : )


  5. Lovely post!

    Yes, all writers must learn that balance between revising and over-revising. One makes the work better, and the other can crush the soul out of it.

  6. Thanks, Tasha.

    I like the image “crush the soul out of it”, lol. Very vivid!


  7. It is a fine line/difficult dance to master… between the self-critic/censor and the editor trying to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Em, I bet you’ve read “The Artist’s Way”! 😉

    My writerly cousine-sister gave me that book when I was in the hospital about a decade ago… there were a lot of parts I never really paid attention to, but a few things from that book stuck… particularly the section about censoring ourselves. Very similar to what you’ve written here. 🙂

  8. I read that book awhile ago. When I have a chance, I plan to read it again.

    I think in my writing/art, perfectionism is the shadow that will always plague me. It’s about the only place in my life I still feel it. It’s like making friends with your monster, so you can at least keep an eye on it.

    I think it’s the flip side of the wonder of creating. How everything contains its opposite — dark and light.


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