27. Editing – am I a craftsman?

Do you love the craft of editing or do you have it? I’ve just had a first class carpenter working on building me new shelving units for my office at the moment. I asked him which bit of the design, manufacture and assembly of the units he enjoyed. He said that his pleasure came from a satisfied customer, but that the bits he most enjoyed were the highly technical intricate work I would never notice, except by their absence if he got them wrong. He’s a craftsman of the old school. That made me wonder whether I’m a literary craftsman.

I’m taking a break from micro-editing. By this I mean copy-editing – going through the text and checking the word use. For me, this is the most tedious part of being a writer. I struggle to find it creative. I have removed 39 instances of the words ‘was’ or ‘were’ and 24 instances of ‘know/knew’ from Chapter 13 of The Golden Illusion. I’m entitled to a rest.

When we write, which part of the process do we enjoy? The big-picture act of writing is a buzz for every author. You have an idea in your mind, and behold it comes to life as your story.

Different authors feel differently about what happens next. After you’ve written your first draft, you then have to revise it, and revise it again. You have to edit, cut, rewrite, hone, and polish. The first draft is one you write only for yourself. Usually, nobody else ever sees it. Subsequent drafts are for the reader. You have to revise with an audience in mind. Some hate the editing process, some love it. Some like bits of it but not others.

I enjoy macro-editing. This is where you’re working on the big picture – does your story work? Are your characters right? The main macro-editing issues are here (https://neilmacdonaldauthor.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/macro-editing-points-character-and-story).

On the other hand, I find micro-editing a pain. This is where you’re working on the nuts and bolts of the writing. This is the heart of wordcraft. The main micro-editing issues are here (https://neilmacdonaldauthor.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/micro-editing-points-writing/)

Both macro-editing and micro-editing are essential if you want your story to sing, and to be the best it can possibly be. To use the analogy of sculpture, it’s not enough to find the form hidden in the rock, you also have to shape it and smooth it and polish it.

I don’t get a buzz from the highly technical stuff, though I can force myself to do the micro-editing because I know it’s essential. I enjoy the texture and savour of finding exactly the right word, just as much as any other member of the wordcraft folk. But done repetitively over the whole 65,000 words of the current draft, it’s just a chore. I guess I’m not a craftsman at heart. Damn! There goes another delusion!

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