Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Going on a killing spree

Don't worry: I'm not actually turning into a homicidal maniac and killing people, or anything. Actually, the only thing I have been "killing" lately are words. I have been "killing my darlings" with the editing I've been doing on a manuscript.

A lot of writers have bemoaned the task of editing and chopping away at their work. "But it's TOO GOOD!" they cry. They just don't feel comfortable snipping away at parts of their work that could really use some fixing up.

But the truth is, if the writing really needs to be changed, change it. Trust me on this. It's for the greater good. You don't have to really "throw away" the good stuff you labored over. You can save it, for your own enjoyment. Or post it on your blog, if you want to share and/or get comments on it. But the best thing to do is to fix the writing in a way that'll make it shine. By doing so, you'll increase your chances of selling the piece and it'll be in the best possible shape ever. All with your name on it! (And as a little side note, editors usually know better, so trust them when they ask you to change something.)

I know it's hard trimming away at the writing you labored over. I have been trying to get through that difficulty, as well. All I can say is, it gets better with time. I keep telling myself that it will be better if I edit it the best that I can. I'd rather have my name on something that's been edited to perfection than on something poorly written and unedited.

The more often you edit, snip and trim away at your writing, the easier it will be. You'll develop a keen eye to watch out for those trouble spots in your writing. Instead of wanting to keep EVERYTHING, you'll be able to think of a better way to say something, catch sentences that are too wordy and get a better idea of how to structure everything.

It takes good editing to make good writing. Writers all know the pain that comes with "killing your darlings" but, really, it's worth it to get through that pain. Just keep at it and sooner or later that pain will disappear and the editing will be a lot easier to get through.

What kind of "growing pains" do you eventually get over the more often you edit your writing?

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