Wednesday, 15 October 2008


Wielding the red pen. Crossing out. Scribbling. Staring at sentences wondering what the hell they mean (doubly depressing because you know you meant something when you wrote them). And sometime, just sometimes, thinking, “Wow. Did I write that?”

It took me a while to get ruthless with this rewrite. There seemed little to do with the first few chapters except correct typos. It took a while to get into my head that I had actually done work on these chapters already. One has been accepted by a magazine after discussions with the editor and some rewriting. Another has already been published (and was an assignment for my degree course). Once I got beyond that first section, the red pen began to fly.

This is a part of the work that I really enjoy. Well, I enjoy all of it, in a masochistic kind of way. Tearing words out of my head that accurately represent the pictures in there is especially difficult, but gratifying. It’s like putting down a heavy suitcase, knowing you don’t have to pick it up anymore. And it is certainly the most difficult part for me.

Unpacking the suitcase and deciding what to keep, where each item should go is much more fun. Finding the exact single adjective to replace the four I put down (they’re like notes to myself when I draft), spotting the repetitions, the labouring of points, mangled sentences… And then improving them.

It still astounds me that a dull, workaday sentence can be transformed cutting or changing a single word, altering the punctuation, or simply putting elsewhere in a paragraph. It still astounds me that using the same building kit available to every other writer; I can produce something unique.


liz fenwick said...

Wow what a brilliant post on the editing process......

i loved this the most though:-
"Tearing words out of my head that accurately represent the pictures in there is especially difficult, but gratifying."

If you don't mind I would love to link to this post because because I think it sums up the whole rewrite process os beautifully.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Ooh. Thank you, Liz.

And please, feel free to link.

liz fenwick said...

Thanks :-)