3 Reasons I Prefer Editing to Writing

Going through and editing my own work is a lot of fun. It’s more fun, in fact, than writing. I don’t mean really intricate copy-editing – I mean the part where you’ve written a draft and you’re now turning it into a better draft. The editing and rewriting stage, not the editing-for-publication stage.

Is this blasphemy? Possibly. But I also think it’s true for a lot more people than just me. I used to feel really bad about this hard truth. If you’re in the same situation, maybe this will help you realise that it’s not just you.

1. Writing feels like a slog in comparison.

I think one of the hardest things you learn when you transition from doing a bit of creative writing to doing a lot – via Nanowrimo, or through moving into doing it professionally – is that writing is hard work.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun. I still love it. It’s still the thing that brings me more joy than almost anything else. There is nothing like the sense of satisfaction I get when having written something.

But it’s also true that it can be really hard work. That it can feel like you have to claw word after word out of yourself. That at times this thing you enjoy more than anything isn’t actually that enjoyable at all. In exactly the same way that, sometimes, the people you love the most frustrate you.

Editing doesn’t do that for me. Editing feels light and joyful and I very rarely find it tedious. At this stage editing also includes some writing too, and often I find myself more excited about that writing than any other. It doesn’t tend to feel like a slog in the same way.

2. When you’re editing, I have a much better idea of what my story is like.

I’m okay at picturing an entire plot in my head. What I really struggle with picturing is structure, pace, that sort of thing. But when you’re editing you’re much more acutely aware of this, because you’re often jumping back and forth.

You’ll find something you know is a clue for later, and have to go on and check it. At the same time you can make sure that clue’s a good one, and so forth. You become aware of the acts shifting a lot more (I often edit one act at a time, then the entire thing).

I can never get that clear a picture when I’m writing. Sure, I know what’s come before and what comes after plot wise. But keeping that wholeness in my head is really hard. Especially when I’m trying to zone in on one part! Editing lets me change that, and I love that about it.

3. When I’m editing, I get to read my own writing over and over.

It took me a very long time to admit this, and I still struggle a bit with doing so, but I love my writing. I love re-reading it. I especially like re-reading it when I’ve not read any of it for a while, and it feels new and yet mine all at the same time.

Which is great, because when you’re in this stage of editing, you read your own writing a lot. I probably read Mundane Magic 20 or 30 times completely when I was writing it. A lot of that will have been of earlier drafts, but I read the finished version that you know several times as well. 

I’ve read Oracle quite a lot of times too, and I’m actually looking forward to going back to it again in a few months – the one upside of agent queries failing will be the chance to do that. To re-immerse myself in it all over again and surprise myself with the bits I’d forgotten I loved.

There isn’t a reading experience like it. Maybe that’s narcissistic. But in this sense, I’m okay to be a bit of a narcissist.

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