Monday, March 22, 2010

Imagine Reading Your Rival's Work

a Shameless Secret for Reveling in Self-Editing

In my humble experience, nothing frees me from the bondage of being in love with my own prose as much as imagining that Someone Else wrote it and has brought it to me, begging for my expert advice. It's amazing how quickly the story holes, plot flaws, and character weaknesses present themselves...

When the fun of writing ends, the reality of editing begins. Editing is where the rubber of the creative muse meets the asphalt of craft.

Every writer knows that editing one's own words can be brutal. It can cause heart palpitations, migraines, divorces, and weight gain. Many writers have a deep and abiding love for every ember that has issued from their creative depths. They approach an edit looking for a reason to retain every single word.

On the other hand, editing the words of someone else (read: A Lesser Writer) can be a rewarding experience that unleashes all the pent-up snarkiness and sarcasm of one's Inner Curmudgeon.

So -- why not make that work in your favor?

The next time an edit rears its ugly head at you, read your words as if you were reading your rival's work.

"I don't have a rival," you might say.

Of course you do. Every time you read a query that caused an agent to sign a new writer and think "I don't see what's so great about that," every time you read an award-winning short story and nit-pick it to shreds, every time you make snide comments about a bestselling author's work, you are naming your rivals. Of course, rivalry can be friendly. But even more importantly -- rivalry is tough.

Pretend your writing rival wrote the draft of the manuscript sitting before you. Narrow your eyes. Pull out that red pen. And indulge in a gleeful edit to your heart's content.

Reading Your Rival's Work is Step 1 of A Three Step Process of Self-Editing, my article that Missy Frye featured in the Incurable Disease of Writing today. Thanks, Missy!

That's how I begin to tackle a self-edit. What's your favorite tactic?

1 comment:

Malin said...

You mean you actually LIKE what you write? I think my writing is mostly crap and not at all as good as I want it to be. Some passages might be bearable, and after a few edits I can read it without too many winces and surges of disgust.