“This is perfect,” I said to myself as I typed the final sentence of my story. My fingers were oozing genius. My characters were alive and provocative. My words sang with the poetry of the muses. My themes were universal, but my approach was entirely innovative. I was going to revolutionize the long short story/novella forever. Awards and critical acclaim would be heaped upon my prose and inevitably lead to a lucrative book deal. Hollywood would surely drool over the chance to adapt my work into a blockbuster film starring Will Smith. Or so I thought.
The next day, I opened the Word document to find there was work to be done. It turns out my brilliantly crafted mind-bending science fiction story is riddled with clumsy metaphors, plot holes, weak characterization and pretty-sounding word clutter. It is far from a masterpiece.
Now comes the ugly business of editing. No matter how much you love your first draft, it needs polishing at the very least — and often, major reconstructive surgery. You have to cut beautiful passages that do nothing for the story, shuffle scenes and rewrite great big chunks before it’s ready to face the harsh light of the public.
This is the part that no one likes. It hurts your ego to take criticism and hack your story into little pieces. But editing is necessary work. It will benefit the quality of your writing more than you can imagine.
Objectively, my first draft is pretty good. But with serious, backbreaking editing, it has a shot at being great.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer and a former lumberjack living in Tacoma, WA. After seven weeks of writing, he’s psyching himself up for the task of editing. How do you approach editing your drafts? Leave your thoughts in the comments or find @jonnyeberle on Twitter.