Writing is the most fulfilling thing I do most days. Editing is perhaps the most debilitating. It’s not that I hate the process. In many ways, I find the act of taking something not quite right and making it better gratifying.
If that’s all it were, I think most writers would enjoy book editing almost as much as they enjoy the writing of the book. Of course, editing and proofreading are never just editing and proofreading. Writing is never objective, and many of us are our own worst critics.
Is this what makes the rewrite so painful?
Currently, I am a finished-manuscript editor, though in the past I have dabbled in writing a book and editing it simultaneously, starting each day by reading back through from the beginning and making changes along the way. I find advantages to both methods.
By writing a manuscript from start to finish before looking back, I get all the ideas out while they’re fresh, I stay fully entrenched in the forward motion of the story, and I finish the book sooner. The main disadvantage of this method is that the fun part, getting the story out, is over, and what remains is the work.
By writing and rewriting at the same time, I revisit the previous events regularly, keeping details and foreshadowing in the forefront of my mind, and the book has already been revisited several times, making later rewrites less tedious.
Whether I edit during or after the writing of a book manuscript, it’s always a difficult process. Books are never really complete, are they? Looking back months or years later, writers will always find things they would write differently given another crack at it. Of course, writing and rewriting the same book repeatedly is a good way to tell only one story for the rest of your life. Where would those other stories go if you did that?
I recently finished my next book, and am in the first stages of editing. It’s a lengthy book, so it’s going to be a lengthy process. So, to all the other writers out there who are in the midst of edits, I feel ya.