Editing can be a tricky process. In fact, I feel I’ve only grasped the concept of editing over the last couple of years. Before that, I used to pick, delicately at my writing. These days, I’m more of a hacker. In fact, I have to hold myself back from totally dissembling a piece! It’s all positive though. Now, I’m a little older (not old, I stress,) I have a little more patience. I’m willing to spend more time mulling over words.
I’ve also learned to leave a piece of work alone for a while, at least a week. Then, I return to it, more detached and as a reader, rather than a writer. This way, it’s much easier to pick up on simple errors such as excessive repetition of a word or phrase, the use of superfluous small words (which particularly occurs in poetry) and other bits that don’t quite work. Writing is about striving to communicate a feeling, an atmosphere, an event, in the most direct and emphatic manner possible. This is especially true in short fiction.
Whichever way you approach it, editing always feels like a risk. It’s not that heady moment, when your pen flies across the page. It’s a slowing down, a consideration, a judgement. But, as long as you save your work as a new document, nothing is lost. You may have to go through numerous drafts before you are satisfied. This is normal. Work that you scrapped may be called back into action. It’s all about moving your text around, reading and re-reading. Speaking the text out loud also helps.
An editing session should definitely be followed by some chill out time, and that’s exactly what I indulged in, over the weekend. I grabbed Hubs by the hand and soon enough, the two of us were strolling by the riverside, in the sunshine. While the fish were unusually shy, only offering the odd splash and swirl to hint at their presence, a flock of swallows boldly announced their arrival. They swooped, greedily glancing off the surface of the water, as their numbers circled and grew.
I presume this was a stop off on the way to South Africa. There are so few swallows around now, that the whole spectacle was a glorious surprise. So, another piece of editing advice – go for a walk afterwards. Experience something new and vital. Find more words. Write them down. Don’t be afraid to change them.