Posted by: Phil Anderson | June 29, 2014

Writing and Editing are Different

I know it should be obvious, but as I’m working through the third draft of my manuscript I’m reminded how different editing is from writing.

When I’m writing and working on a scene or a chapter, I have thoughts and ideas that I’m trying to quickly put into words. I don’t spend a lot of time searching for just the right way to say it, because I don’t want to lose my train of thought. When I’m done, I go back and read it over to ensure that it says what I want it to say and that it makes sense. I might change a few things and reword parts of it, but I’m not trying for perfection. Just “good enough” so I can move on to the next scene.

Editing requires a completely different mindset. The story is already there and now I need to make sure it’s conveyed clearly. “Good enough” is no longer good enough. Every word needs to contribute or else be replaced by a better word or just deleted altogether. Each phrase or paragraph must be adjusted so that it’s clear and cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Dialog has to be analyzed so that the speaker’s words don’t merely move the conversation along but also reflect his personality, what he knows, what he thinks, and what he wants.

Additionally, it’s not enough that readers understand what I’ve written. They also need to feel what I want them to feel. Words and phrases must strengthen not just story clarity but also voice and tone. A characters mood and emotions should be experienced and not just understood. The reader should laugh or get excited or worried at just the right time.

Writing is mostly creative, and editing tends toward the technical, but both are important. And both are enjoyable in their own way.

Are you a writer? Which do you like better, writing or editing? Leave a comment and let me know.


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