Slash and Burn

There’s no greater joy in life than editing someone else’s work.

I read that somewhere, and I have to admit the red-pen high is hard to beat, especially when some unwary friend or colleague asks for it.  If there are sweeter words in the English language than, “Will you edit this for me?” I’d be hard pressed to come up with them.  Why the poor innocents don’t run screaming from the room when the shark-like grin stretches across my face as I start gleefully rubbing my hands together, I’ll never understand.  Maybe it’s only the masochists who ask?

But if editing someone else’s work can be a joy forever, it doesn’t come close to the satisfaction I get from editing my own.  I love to slash and burn.  I do it with a smile.

We’re talking literary liposuction, people.  Sucking the fat out of every bloated paragraph.

I root out the pesky really, very, and/or just.  Lop off adjectives like they were heads, and I was the Queen of Hearts with PMS.  Kick the passive voice clear into next week and obliterate redundancies.

Not that editing is all take and no give.  Once in a while, I realize I have to add some detail.  I occasionally skimp on elements like background information or how somebody is dressed or how he/she gets from point A to point B.  Did our heroine walk, amble, sprint, or wander … and what was she wearing when she did?  I’ve got to tell you, I  hate writing that stuff.  Dialogue?  I’m all over dialogue.  Unfortunately, dialogue alone does not a novel make.  (Or does it?  An interesting concept I may explore sometime.)

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, editing is fun.

The trick is knowing when to stop.  I’m fairly sure I could edit my my books indefinitely, which would pretty much turn writing into a never-ending exercise in futility.  Or self-gratification.  Sooner or later, you have to say, “Enough, already!” and devote your energy to the business side, i.e., getting your story out to readers.

Still, as the Good Book says, “There’s a time for every purpose under heaven.”

And now is the time to slash and burn.

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