THE CRUELTY AND JOY OF EDITING

Melanie left a comment on my “Paper Moon” post suggesting that I’m smart and clever and that’s why I write well. The real reason is probably my span of more than 40-years as a working writer. That’s got to be worth something, right?

Here’s how to get “run-on” blogs under control:
BRUTAL EDITING.

When you look at your latest post, look for repeats of what you already said. If you like one set of words better than another? Use the one you like better. Don’t use both. Banging readers over the head by reiterating the same idea is not only boring, it’s also annoying. If it doesn’t add to your commentary, it’s trash.

Delete digressions and rambles. If it’s a personal piece, you can ramble your heart out, but if you want to make a point, the extra writing mires down the text. Obviously there are no hard and fast laws about this. You may need a digression or two to make a point. Only you can judge.

While editing, eliminate as many prepositional phrases as you can. These include: “which” “that” “so” “I believe” “I think” “maybe” “it’s possible” “I’ve been thinking,” and so many more. Dump them. They add nothing your reader doesn’t already know.

When you build a sentence, write frontward. Put the clause with the important information first. Don’t insert it in a middle or final clause. In news writing, that’s called “burying the lead.”

The lead should always lead.

Figuring out where to end a post can be tricky. When you get there, if it still feels like you left something out, don’t add it at the end. Figure out where it where it belongs and that’s where you put it.

It sometimes feels like blogging is a race, a mad dash to maximize the number of posts we publish. Certainly publishing many posts will increase your hits. As someone with just under 210,000 posts, I’d happily delete most of them and no one (including me) would miss them. Maybe instead of racing to see how many posts you can publish, see how many excellent posts you can publish. Rumors to the contrary, blogging isn’t a race. The blogger with the most posts doesn’t win a prize.

We are all smart folks. We write well. If you would like your writing to be crisper, tighter, sharper, and more pointed? Be a ruthless editor. It only hurts in the beginning. After all these years, I’m still amazed at how big an improvement you can make by removing sections.

Sometimes less is so much more.



Categories: Anecdote, Blogging, Editing, Writing

Tags: , , ,

31 replies

  1. Editing is everything, but it’s sometimes impossibly hard to know when to stop! My DIL and I had to not only threaten my son to finish his dissertation and get all the copies delivered, but she went with him to make sure it got copied, mailed properly, and on time. He waited until the very last minute. He’s still like that with his second book. He thinks of new things to say and he reads new research. I totally get it which is why I have chosen to never publish my books because of that same affliction. I know as soon as I let it go, I will think of some way I could have said it better. Too stressful!

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    • And THAT is why you really need, at that stage, to hire a pro who isn’t a friend who will read it, edit it and/or tell you what you REALLY need to do to finish it. Everyone needs a professional edit. Some of us simply can’t afford it!-.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve heard that before but I’m such a control freak I don’t want anybody’s opinion. My son has a publisher and they did/do edit his works and sometimes they have “discussions” about the edits…I know it’s hard for him but his subject matter is rarified, not like mine.

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        • There is a moment in the life of a writer — really any artist — when you have to let go. It’s the moment when you hand over the manuscript to an editor or a publisher and promise you will follow the directions, even if you don’t agree. If you don’t do that, you won’t publish, unless you self publish and good luck with that. It’s so easy to do it yourself, but minimally satisfying. I wasn’t interested in seeing my name in print. I’d seen it often. I wanted to make some MONEY. I think I made a few hundred dollars all told because I was lucky that Garry still had some connections. I got some free PR. But it was a year of full time work and another year of plugging the novel all the time. Then I got cancer and decided the book just wasn’t all that important.

          In the end, for that much effort, I wanted to make REAL money. In theory, you can but I’ve only heard of one book that did. It’s why I never bothered to even try to write another. I wasn’t going to do all the things you need to do to MAYBE get published. If you get published, there’s still no guarantee you’ll make significant money.

          Publishing no matter HOW you do it, is a tough gig. Even with a contract. Even with a great novel. Even with free PR. Even with an editor. If you can’t give it up to an editor, forget the rest. You won’t make it. I didn’t and knew I never would. SO — I blog.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I have a friend and her first book is internationally known, has merchandise, and all of her subsequent books did well too. She fought hard to keep everything her way and it paid off for her. She’s sort of mentored me but I was so damaged by WHAT HAPPENED that I just sit here and I guess the best word to describe it is …fester…unless I’m seeing the babies. My blogging is benign.

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            • You don’t have to have an international best-seller to have a worthwhile life. Sounds like your friend also had a good lawyer and has a good contract. A lot of successful writers have minimal financial success because the publisher gets everything and they get pennies. That includes best-sellers. It really IS a hard gig and with few exceptions, there aren’t a lot of wealthy writers around — but there are a lot of rich publishers.

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              • She might have a lawyer now but not for years and years. She handled everything herself. Her books just took off. Right time, right place. I think she’s fairly wealthy but totally down to earth, a lovely person. I’m not sure how much my son makes, I know he got an advance for the first one and I’ll try to remember to ask him when they’re here this week but it’s chaos when the kids are around, parents leave them and go off on their freedom days haha.

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                • Well, King has been making his own contracts for years too. Otherwise, publishers love ripping off authors. On the whole, we’re easy. We don’t want to deal with business. We just want to write. These days, though, you can’t “just write.” You have to arrange your own editing, PR, book placement — all the things that they should do for you because that’s why you have a contract. But instead, they just take your book and you get the opportunity to keep writing books and they get to keep your money.

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Marilyn! I tried to comment on another post you published about blogging. For some reason I could only “like”. Your expertise and experience are encouraging and helpful! 💛

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    • You are welcome — and thank YOU for reading! Editing is easier if you’ve got someone else to do it for you. None of us seem to be so lucky. I offer tidbits on how to find pieces you can remove without losing anything important. If you learn the basics, eventually you get the hang of it and you get better.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good advice Marilyn. I know that I have a bad habit of continuously re-using a word in a post. I always have to go back and eliminate them.

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    • That’s one of the things I look for first. Sometimes, there just isn’t any other word you CAN use, but usually, you can “write around” the repetition. The only time you can use a word over and over and it’s cool is in poetry when repeating one sound becomes a kind of music. Otherwise, it can be a bit awkward. But hey, we practice, we learn. No one learns instantly and for many people editing is a new skillset. They can write, but editing? Other than correcting typos or other grammar, they aren’t sure where to start. I learned at work but most people weren’t writers.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful. May I share this post on my LinkedIn, with due credit, of course? I have a blog on LinkedIn about all writing related matters…

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  5. Well said, as usual

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