Why #editing is like cutting a gemstone

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Editing takes me a long time. That’s not because I find it particularly difficult (a few aspects, but not so much), it’s simply a big job to do well, and I don’t have so many hours to devote to it.

So why am I here, writing on my blog instead of editing the book?

Firstly, because I’m up in the Scottish Highlands, and when I fly up it’s easier to bring the small netbook, rather than the big laptop, and I just don’t find it as easy to write with the smaller keyboard – too many mistakes, too much time spent going back to correct things. Small excuse, I know, but I have better…

View from the side of the road, driving to one of my lessons - Scottish Highlands in the sun, with gorse and broom in full bloom

View from the side of the road, driving to one of my lessons – Scottish Highlands in the sun, with gorse and broom in full bloom

I’ve just worked 4 days of 12 – 14 hours teaching and judging, (not to mention over 400 miles of driving), plus the migraine that went with the lack of sleep, and frankly I don’t trust my brain to be coherent enough to do a good job. I’ll be back to the south on Thursday and (almost) normal service will resume.

So in the meantime, I’ve been thinking about editing, and comparing it to a description of  cutting a gemstone – first you slice away the rough outside to expose the pristine story lines (structural editing), then you make precise cuts to create the beautifully faceted shape you desire (copy editing), and finally you polish the surface to make it gleam with life (proof reading).

It is through this series of processes that the awesome book fighting to escape from the excessive verbiage that originally went down on the page will emerge – and this is the stage when I finally fall in love with my novel, and am eventually proud enough of it to think – hey, this is actually GOOD!

I’m still in the earlier cutting phase, but I’m delighted to have fallen for the story already. Now I have to hope that my readers feel the same.

How about you? Do you have a mental image of the editing process? I’ve been surprised to see how many authors declare they hate it, and find it hard. My problem is knowing when to cease editing, because I enjoy it too much!

 

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11 comments

  1. ichabod2014ic · · Reply

    Hi Deborah.
    I like the gemstone analogy.
    Alas, I do not have a clever image like that to share. {sigh.} I have heard someone say that the editing process is like cleaning up spilled glitter from the carpet, with a pair of tweezers.
    Good luck with the book!
    i know this is an exciting time and stage for you as a writer.
    Cheers!
    ~Icky. 🙂

    1. Cheers Icky.
      {Pst, don’t tell anyone, but I stole the gemstone analogy from a horse trainer, who uses it to describe the complete training of a dressage horse. It seemed to fit so nicely, I adapted it. Of course, you are such a good friend, I know you’d never tell… 😉 }

      1. ichabod2014ic · ·

        Your secret is safe with me!

  2. The most difficult piece to edit is your own. But I agree with you that when you see your words turn into rich thoughts or poetic prose, you’re left with a feeling of accomplishment and elation!

    1. That’s true, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying the process. Obviously the end result is the reward, and I just love the emergence of that gem from the rough start.

      1. I totally agree with you! I’m so excited when I finally get the manuscript smoothed out and flowing, whether it’s my own or someone I’m editing for. The beauty of language and precise syntax makes the story and the characters come to life.

  3. I’m like you Deb. I can’t write my books on my smaller laptop. It’s great for other things and travel, but nothing like the big machine for writing books.
    I hope you enjoy a bit of time out, and I love the analogy ‘cutting like a gemstone’ for editing.
    I agree, after edits and going back over the story, we do tend to fall more in love with our stories. I rather enjoy editing as well. It’s the preliminary rewriting before editing that drives me mad – bringing the story together. 🙂

    1. Ha! Time out would be a fine thing – if only there was time for it 😉
      I’m relieved this time around to find I have fallen in love with this book, as I’ve had to work so hard at bringing the multiple story lines together, but I have, so I’m thrilled about it. Just commissioned the cover – another step I really enjoy 🙂

      1. Good for you Deb! And yes, the cover is one of my favourite parts of getting the book ready.
        I know I’m so behind in reading Prince’s Man, and I’ve read your other books. But I will get to it this summer!!! I’m even more excited to read it because I want to read the sequel and see how you’ve chosen to weave the books together. So my mission is twofold. 🙂

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