EDITING – YOU MEAN YOU DON’T?

Blogging Insights — Editing

I don’t often participate in these Q & A things, but this one caught my eye, so…

QUESTIONS:

Do you edit your work before posting it?

Apart from correcting typos and spellings , how much (if any) of a post do you change before you send it out in the world?

Do you think that re-drafting a piece can “rob” it of its spontaneity?

RESPONSES:

My response to all three questions would be simple.

You mean you DON’T edit your writing? How can you publish something you have not edited? Aside from just picking up typos, awkward or clumsy sentences, writing is not a “spontaneous” activity. It’s art.

Editing is not “extra.” It’s part of the process. I grant you no one needs to spend a whole day editing a 500-word post, but neither do you just drop it on the page and assume your grammar, phrasing, and meaning were perfect without at the very least checking whether or not what you said makes sense to you and will make sense to readers.

It means you supply context and if necessary, background and sources. It means you are not talking nonsense or jabbering. Would you read a book that had not been edited?

While I understand typos and errors (especially in comments), I won’t read badly written posts. Hell, I shout out corrected grammar for announcers on TV advertisements. Note that this can be really annoying, but I do it anyway.

Spontaneity? Seriously? That’s would be like giving a concert without learning to play the instrument.

Writing is art. It isn’t finger painting for toddlers. That is also why you see so many “blogs” where the “author” lasts a few weeks and then abandons the project. They discover that writing requires work. It also requires intelligence, talent, and class. You don’t build an audience without making an effort to be good at it.

There is a reason why a first draft is not a final draft. Most good writing requires a minimum of three drafts. That is also why so many comments are incomprehensible. Why WordPress does not let you go back and correct a comment I don’t know, but I often hit return when I don’t intend to and then I feel like I need another comment or three to fix what I meant to say the first time.

I write a first draft. I carefully reread it then leave it to rest for a while and come back and reread it. This is usually the almost final edit, though I may come back and fix a few words here and there. If by the end of the second (or third) draft, I’m not happy with it I may decide to trash the post without publishing it. Occasionally, I publish something either accidentally or fail to realize it isn’t well-written. THEN I trash it. It’s much better to toss it before publication.

So in answer to the three part question, all I can say is “You mean, you DON’T edit your writing? What’s wrong with you?”

If you don’t edit your writing, you are not a writer.

How much and how many times you edit a piece (depending on subject matter) is a better question. How much editing is enough is always a good question and one that can be difficult to answer. Since perfection isn’t possible, everyone has to recognize when a piece is “good enough” to post. Knowing when a piece ready is also art.



Categories: Anecdote, Challenges, Editing, Writing

Tags: , , , ,

46 replies

  1. Relatively new to fiction writing, this was tough for me to stomach. I’ve always been a perfectionist and in school I was always determined to finish every paper with just a first draft–editing as I went instead of rewriting entirely–and that always worked out for me. With my recent short stories and blog posts though, I’ve really come to appreciate editing. I started watching Hannah Lee Kidder on YouTube and learning how she edits has helped me to understand how much stronger writing can be if you are willing to kill your darlings. I used to hold myself to such high standards when I HAD to get it right the first time and that limited my creativity. Allowing myself to go back and read what I’ve written and be open to change, accepting that what I wrote could be improved upon, has really been humbling and has made me a better writer.

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    • Unless you’re on TV or radio and have a very tight deadline — as in “we need it NOW” — everything can be improved by editing. It’s hard to let go of that great sentence you were sure lit up the piece, but so frequently I find that removing the sentence, paragraph, or section improves everything. I worked as a professional writer for my whole adult life (except when I was also or instead, an editor) and I learned to cut. I also had to learn to expand, where I needed to understand my readers didn’t know stuff what I knew and no matter how simple it sounded, I had to include it.

      I remember whining at one of the great editors I had: “You’re not going to make me rewrite this whole section are you?”

      “Yup,” he said. I hated it. I hated him. I rewrote it. The book was so much better.

      Your writing improves as your editing improves. It makes a huge difference!

      Like

  2. I agree with you, Marilyn. However, there are plenty of bloggers who like to be spontaneous, although blog writing is generally better than what you see on Facebook, etc. A piece can be “spontaneous” even with editing, because the idea comes to you spontaneously. Sometimes I am writing something and an idea or insight comes to me while in the act of writing. But I know what you mean about not reading something if someone hasn’t bothered to even make it coherent by using acceptable grammar and spelling. In this technological world, ANYONE can become a “writer,” no matter how much talent they have (or not) for writing. Unfortunately, there are too many things in print that have grammatical or spelling errors. By “in print” I am including even things written on grocery bags, which are replicated by the hundreds.

    But I digress. I like what you wrote in your post (and most of your other posts, whether I hit “like” or not), and the comments have also been interesting to read. You started a meaningful thread – congratulations! 😉

    Like

    • Editing is becoming a forgotten art. It used to be when you got a contract for publication from an actual publishing company, it included proofreading and editing. Now, you are lucky if it includes the paper in the book — if there will BE a book, that is.

      Most authors have to hire their own editors and the big advances that used to make getting a contract a big deal are kaput, too. There were some brilliant editors in the past, but these days? You hand over the manuscript direct from your files and that’s it. I’m not sure publishers look at the manuscript before publishing it.

      I have a friend who just retired after a life of teaching college-level English. He said that the kids coming in didn’t know what “a complete sentence” was. They didn’t know how to write without emojis.

      I feel like the art of writing is going back to marks on the cave wall.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing these tips .

    Liked by 1 person

    • It doesn’t mean you can’t write quickly or, for that matter, edit quickly. People who are writing news have no choice. But working fast isn’t the same as not editing. When I was in college, I didn’t seriously edit. I suspect the problem was the lack of a computer. If I wanted to change something, it meant retyping the whole remainder of the paper. It had to be a really serious issue to do that much typing. Besides — college papers weren’t authorship. Unless it was a writing class, as long as you explained the subject well, good writing was a plus, but not usually a requirement.

      I do remember the first class in which I got a D/A+.

      D? He gave me a D? And what was the A+? It turned out the D was for content, but the A+ was for the writing. He admired the art, but hated the content. I think that was when I got serious about writing — AND content.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Some pieces get written rather quickly and others take days. In both scenarios, I reread the piece over and over looking for ways to make it better. I have completely trashed articles rather than edit them because it seemed like it would be better to start over than to try to fix what was before me. Articles with many sources or embedded videos can take a really long time for what turns out to be a 5-minute read. I always thought the editing was a part of the process. How can you write more than a few sentences and not edit them? I even edit the email I send you.

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    • I always tell people that I write quickly, but edit slowly. It isn’t unusual for me to realize after letting a post sit for a day or more, that I don’t like it. That’s it’s too “down” or depressing, or that it doesn’t say what I mean to say. That somehow, it doesn’t hit the mark. I may leave it in drafts and later figure out what to do with it.

      Even when I’m “reblogging” an older piece, by the time I get through revising it, it IS a new piece. I see all the mistakes I made before and try to fix them. And, of course, times have inevitably changed — at least a little bit — and I have to correct dates, presidents — and things like how long we’ve been married, how long since some event occurred, etc.

      I sometimes forget to edit comments or responses and I’m ALWAYS sorry when I do that because there are inevitably a ton of typos and incorrect words (I type “with” instead of “wish” and a lot of others). Editing is more of the process than the first draft. Really, for most of us, that first draft is just getting down a raw entry of what you are thinking about saying. Editing is when you turn it into real writing.

      The idea of publishing without editing is kind of mind-blowing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Someone asked me why it takes me so long to write a blog post. My grammar is not perfect. Once I hit “publish” I have anxiety about errors. Particularly on comments such as this. Editing is part of the writing process. It’s not my journal or diary. I hope this response is solid writing. I completely agree with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really can’t imagine posting something I haven’t edited. Even comments — where I often forget to edit –after which realize I KNOW it’s going to be full of errors. I swear I sometimes type 20 words with 25 mistakes.

      Then I have to ponder if I want to let that participle dangle or not. Or if I want to use that word because I already used it in the previous paragraph. Or if I need a different, more precise word. It can take me a really long time to write something, unless it’s just a note that says “not writing today, busy or not feeling well” or whatever. And even they get at least one or two rereads to make sure I’m saying what I intend to say.

      When we look around at who has a blog that is popular, long-lasting, and meaningful, you see good writing. Ranting or reblogging doesn’t make a site that will keep people coming back. It’s also why I don’t like “dedicated to ONE concept” sites. Not only does it begin to bore readers, it bores the writer too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As a writer myself, I am in complete agreement.

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    • I think anyone who values the “art” can’t NOT agree. Of course, Garry has an editor (me), so he writes a first and second draft and lets me do the final edit. Which, to be fair, I don’t mind. I wish he’s do a final edit on MY work. We could all use another pair of eyes!

      Like

  7. I am 100% with you on this! I write all my posts in Word first, usually a day or two before I intend to post. I then edit the Word document before cutting and pasting into the blog, and then edit again – both as I go (double-checking each paragraph) and a final pre-publish edit.

    The same with photos. I would never include a photo in a blog if I hadn’t at least checked it carefully for any necessary edits – straightening, cropping, maybe tweaking the contrast. If it’s out of focus it doesn’t go in unless I absolutely need it to illustrate a point, in which case I will acknowledge and apologise for the poor image. Many photos I edit much more – adjusting the colour balance, maybe testing out an effect, or seeing how they look in B&W. And I’m also 100% with Tom’s comment. I get so fed up with friends on Facebook who post 90 photos at a time of a holiday expecting you to look through them. And if you do you find many are almost identical to each other, or are out of focus or have some other glaring fault that could have been fixed with a quick edit – not straight images are my pet hate 😬

    Oh, and I too shout out corrected grammar for the announcers on TV, and not just in adverts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are my kind of gal!

      I have had to pull back some on photo processing because I was over-processing pictures that didn’t need it. But everything needs to be at least straightened (NO, THE OCEAN IS FLAT!), often cropped at least a bit, and for me, sharpened or denoised — or lightened. I seem to produce dark pictures. Maybe it’s my total refusal to ever use flash?

      I have a friend who won’t level his pictures. Usually, his pictures are relatively level anyway (steadier hands than mine), but not always. He seems to be one of those people who feels you have to post the picture the exact way you shot it, but that’s not photography. That’s snap-shooting. I hate most of the pictures on social media. Taken with a telephone, crooked, AND fuzzy. Where one good shot would tell the story, there are 20 fuzzy pictures and the only one who can see the difference is the one who took the pictures. And to be fair, I often can’t really tell the difference either, unless I am counting leaves on that one branch to see how long it is!

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who yells at the guys on TV. The whole “less” versus “fewer” thing particularly unnerves me!

      Like

  8. “…writing requires work.” Yes, it does. “It also requires intelligence, talent, and class.” Hmmm, then maybe I’m not a writer after all.

    Having gotten that snarky comment out of my system, let me say that I edit everything many times, and no matter how much I edit it never seems “perfect” (whether it’s writing or photography). At that point, I usually just hit publish and hope for the best. Sometimes I’ll re-read a post days or weeks (or even months or years) later and do a little more tweaking. Sometimes I feel like editing or tweaking other people’s posts, too, but so far I’ve managed to retrain from that.

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    • I used to edit newspaper articles. I couldn’t help it. I had a pen in hand and put in all the commas, corrected grammar, and sometimes wrong words (auto-correct has long been with us!).

      And by class, I mean an intent to write a good piece. Not just doing it, but having the intention not just to fill the space, but to SAY something whether it’s serious, funny, or just an anecdote. I’m always surprised at how many (especially new blogs by people who never tried writing before) don’t really say anything. They fill space, but why bother? I have learned to say SOMETHING, even when I think just a picture will do because I have a few blind (or close to it) readers and their computer won’t tell them what’s on the page if there aren’t any words. Otherwise, though, I’d often be happy with just a picture. Okay, maybe too many pictures.

      You are a fine writer. It doesn’t mean that everything you say is brilliant. None of us are brilliant all the time. But you are funny, sharp, and when you have a point to make, you MAKE your point. That, for me, is class. You aren’t just taking up room!

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  9. I spend about 100 times the amount of time and effort editing works that I put up for sale than I do writing it. As to the blog? I proof read it and correct obvious errors. Usually. Yeah, if I decide to use a short story I wrote for the blog in a book, it is a totally different work by the time it is in print…
    Looking at Tom’s photo analogy, posting proofread only posts is more akin to someone posting some of their best photos after just simple crops or color corrections as opposed to someone spending hours in PS editing them. The out-of-the-camera shots are often very good, but probably not that pro-quality that the PSed photos are. I post a lot of out-of-the-camera shots, and hopefully few are out of focus ones. I also post a lot of PSed photos… Even if a post is unedited, I think most people do put a little thought into them and rarely just do stream of conscious writing, unless that is their purpose – more of a personal journal that the world can see.
    As to writing, I am totally worthless at editing unless the work sits for at least a few days, though for a short story I like at least 6 months and a book I have to wait over a year. If I go in too soon, I still have what I wanted to say so loud in my mind that I read it exactly as I wrote it in my head before I put it on page .

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    • First of all, because you are authoring, blogging isn’t your primary writing. There are only so many hours in a day. You have to put your time where you most need it. So of COURSE you put more effort into editing work you want to sell than a blog. Unless you have an editor who does the final edit for you. Even then, I’m sure you’d go back over it. There’s a lot of compulsive behavior attached to writing!

      Oh what I would give to have a real proofreader and editor (especially a proofreader!). I did the best writing of my career when I had a dedicated editor. Even when they made me rewrite what I thought was a perfectly fine section, it was always better when I redid it.

      Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to pay an editor. Garry HAS an editor — ME. I think I’m a much better editor of someone else’s work than I am of mine. When I try to edit my stuff, I see what I meant to say rather than what I did say. I suppose that’s what the “let it rest for a few days at least” before the final edit comes in. When I was writing my (one) book, Garry read the whole book OUT LOUD – and he STILL missed typos. Because he’d read or heard it too many times. My good friends weren’t much help either. I needed a pro who hadn’t been part of the “creation.”

      Regardless, another pair of eyes makes a HUGE difference.

      I’m trying to use more (mostly) unedited photos when they don’t need editing. My eyes aren’t what they used to be, so what looks sharp when I shoot isn’t always sharp when I look at it on a bigger screen. I also tend to drop my left hand slightly, so I usually need to straighten pictures. And correct for barrel aberration. Some of my lenses seem to get more twisted than others. I had an f1.4 Leica 25mm prime for my Olympus I hated. The pictures were always warped.

      I finally swapped the lens with a friend for something I wouldn’t hate so much. I also think you get more aberrations in telephoto lenses than in primes — but sometimes only at specific distances. No matter what anyone says, every lens is unique. Electronics be damned, optics are optics and it’s all about the glass!

      Like

      • I do have two people who help me proofread, but I do all of the editing myself. i should have a professional editor, but can’t afford it. You do need another set of eyes, and hopefully someone who knows nothing about it,

        I very rarely correct lens distortion. The new cameras do a little of it, but you are right, it is still visible, and I think Oly does better correction with Oly lenses, so it would be little help with a Leica. My eyes are getting worse, but zooming in helps me see if there are focus/shake issues. Sometimes a little blur isn’t terrible if the photo is interesting enough…

        Mostly you are correct, my blog is an outlet and I have limited time. If I did a lot of editing, I might post two or three times a week at most, or would have to carve more time out of the day.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I love when wordpress shows me how many times I have edited. 8 revisions, 9 revisions. A tweak here or there… I even preview the posts that are photos only 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too. No matter HOW many times I go over a piece, I STILL find typos. These days — I think this is an age-related thing — I leave off the ends of words. My mind has pushed on to the next sentence and I don’t finish typing out the entire word and after I publish, I have to go back and fix it. I fix things I published long ago because I can’t leave the mistake there. Bad enough it took me a year or two to find it, but I can’t just LEAVE it. Yikes!

      Like

  11. Same same. I usually just go for it but ALWAYS read it again a few times to see if I enjoy it …then preview then read again once posted , You can always edit a final time. Above all it should be enjoyable to write and FUN …not a burden.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The most commonly “dumped” posts are things that are too down or depressing. That’s also why I never instantly publish anything because my mood when I wrote it doesn’t necessarily represent how I feel a few hours later, much less a month later!

      Yes. Posts should be at least interesting or entertaining or informative. If they aren’t one of those, why did you write it? I have to ask myself that question. Why did I write this? What’s my point? Do I have a point? Will anyone see it?

      That was the other reason an editor was helpful. They knew when to force me to hand over the manuscript. I think I was a bit compulsive about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I agree, it is foolish to think any work does not need to be edited. Completely separate from writing, editing is an art and can only improve. I think of it as polishing a raw diamond…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a good editor, maybe a better editor than writer. But the only editing I do is for Garry and he won’t edit me. Hell, he won’t edit himself more than once. After that, it bounces into my court! He’s a very clean writer, though. Probably all those pieces he wrote under a tight deadline. That’s the thing about TV writing. You don’t get the luxury of letting the piece sit and wait. There’s usually a clock ticking and you have to have the piece ready when it’s slotted into the broadcast.

      He does write very clean copy. Much cleaner than mine and probably as a result of 40 years of practice!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Writing is rewriting and rewriting until at some point you simply stop because of external constraints and let it go. I doubt that there is ever a flawless piece of writing that has gone out – every time I re-read what I wrote, I find something that could have been written better.
    My regret is that the era of instant messaging has killed the art of editing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The era of instant messaging has killed grammar, punctuation, and oh yes: figuring out what you want to say before you blurt it out! I hate emojis and “social media” contractions. If we keep on with the emojis, we can go all the way back to hieroglyphics. Who needs sentences and words, or for that matter, spelling or concepts? Just barf it all onto the page.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Very well answered Marilyn. Unfortunately, I’ve seen posts which haven’t been edited and the results are often not good.

    Like

  15. I don’t consider myself the writer that Marilyn and Tommy are, but I edit most, if not all, of my emails. I hate it when i don’t make my writings clearly displayed for anyone to understand. I do sometimes make a mistake in haste, so I figure the few extra minuets it takes to edit is well worth avoiding the possible confusion if I don’t.

    Like

    • Also, you write, but you’re not a writer. That’s not your focus. You edit SOUND and you hear things I would never hear if you didn’t point them out to me. If not for you, I’d never recognize a bass line. We all have unique talents and everyone who writes something isn’t a writer — nor is everyone who can strum a guitar a musician 😀

      Also, you hold your camera a lot straighter than I hold mine. I STILL drop my left hand. Just a little bit. I think it’s a muscle thing.

      Like

  16. I cannot agree with this anymore if you put a gun to my head. (Of course why anyone would do that is beyond me)
    It’s like your friend who shows you pictures of his vacation and shows EVERY SINGLE ONE. ALL THE ONES OUT OF FOCUS! All the ones that’s a picture of his thumb.
    “Ruin the spontaneity?????
    I share Marilyn’s rage.
    What a stupid question.

    Like

    • Ruin the spontaneity.

      Writing isn’t spontaneous. Barfing and farting, now THAT is spontaneity. An awful lot of stuff you read in humorously so-called “social media” is VERY spontaneous. It smells spontaneous, doesn’t it?

      The very few times I was being spontaneous, I regretted it. Sometimes a lot and for a long time.

      You know, i don’t mind that many people can’t take a sharp picture to save their lives. What I mind is that the make me LOOK at all of them. Can’t they tell how bad they are?

      Like

      • I have that dropping the hand habit too, my pictures nearly always look wonky to me so I try to edit them to hide it.
        I so agree about people who make you look at their bad photos. I still remember a fellow railfan we used to know. He bought himself a good camera, took a trip to the UK and happily showed the resulting slides to us when he came back. They were so awful but we didn’t want to hurt his feelings because he was a nice man. It taught us that a good camera doesn’t guarantee good photos and that you should always sort your photos before showing them around. When we had film cameras we would make three piles, the ones we liked, the ones we hated and those we called mediocre. We’d critique each other’s photos and then cull some more. I like photo editing because sometimes I can save some f those mediocre ones but if I don’t like it nobody else sees it unless I need it to illustrate a post and don’t have anything else relevant. Many of my older photos fall into this group.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. YES, WRITING IS RE-WRITING. FIRST, YOU SPILL IT ALL OUT. THEN YOU CLEAN IT UP.

    Like

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