I have a confession to make.
I’m a serial edit-and-polisher. I mean it – I’m totally addicted to that part of the process of writing.
It takes me forever to write my first draft because every time I open my document, I think, “Well, I’d better read what I wrote last time so I know where I was at” … and two hours later, I still haven’t written any new words because I’ve been faffing with the old ones.
Once my first draft is written – eventually – then I can really get stuck in. This is the bit I love best – taking the words that fell untidily from my brain onto the keyboard and making them shine. I will rewrite a sentence over and over until I’m satisfied with it. Anything that grates as I re-read my work will drive me mad until I make it right.
Okay, so at this point I know you’re probably worrying a little about my sanity, but please don’t. I’m a pernickety so-and-so and I enjoy doing this.
Yes, I’m a writer, but do you know what word I like best? Wordsmith. That’s me. I will tweak and pummel until I know my manuscript is the best it can possibly be. And when an editor points out where it could be even better, I will happily oblige because I know they are probably right – if something has jarred with them, then it would have jarred with the reader.
As you will have guessed by now, this means that writing is not a quick process for me. After the first draft, there will be a second draft, and a third, and a fourth … you get the picture.
Aside from the time issue, there are a couple of other downsides to this obsessive perfectionism.
I often know the manuscript so well in my head that I end up putting back in the phrases I took out several drafts ago – a bit like when you’re sitting an exam and checking it over at the end, and you stare so long at it that you end up changing a perfectly good answer to a wrong one.
But the main thing is, I need to learn to recognise when the poor thing is screaming for mercy and just let it be – to step away from the keyboard and accept that I can do no more.
I’m almost at that point with my current manuscript. Almost. Maybe one more run through, just in case …
If you’re a writer, do you love or hate editing? I’d love to hear about it.