The hardest, and most time consuming, aspect of writing is editing. I try not to edit right after writing something. When I finish a project, I put it aside and forget about it, so that when I come back to it months, years and now, decades (a recent development that I don’t like to think about, lol), it almost feels like I’m discovering it for the first time. It also allows me a chance to look at it through the lens of different life experience–I may not be in the same state of mind, or I’ve learned something more since I wrote it. With the oldest stuff it’s like a completely different person wrote it, and what I wrote ten, fifteen or even twenty years ago can surprise, amuse, or even disgust me.
This isn’t always practical, though, and it has its drawbacks. Some things, like this blog post, are a bit more throw-away and get the once over immediately after being drafted, so they can be posted within a couple of days. The more work I’ve put into something, however, the more protective I am of it. I’ve got this novel I wrote nearly a decade ago now. About four years ago I went through it with a fine toothed comb and retooled it from top to bottom. I used to post excerpts (at one point I think I even posted the whole thing to a blog on MySpace…yeah, yeah, I know) but now I’m hesitant to show it to anyone. Part of it has to do with the fact that agents are hesitant about previously published works, even it was just a blog posting.
Then there is the fear that maybe the book was better to begin with (which, I’ve found, is NEVER the case, but rationality has nothing to do with this), or that maybe I’m going too far. Sometimes I’ll re-tool something, and the result is a better piece of writing, from a technical standpoint, but in the process it has lost that raw, unpredictable aspect of a story let loose to practically write itself.
So, fellow writers. What are your editing practices?