A classic excuse which allows us not to finish, never to cross the finishing line, is ‘I’m still editing’. (So I can’t possibly send my manuscript out, or allow anyone to read it yet…)
As my dear friend Dorothy says, this excuse merely allows us to procrastinate in a very professional manner. Most people, when they hear we are editing, will nod their head respectfully and leave us to it. But therein lies the danger. At some point, we have to write THE END and I rather like authors who do, and who keep that in their manuscripts. THE END suggests a willingness to write and be damned, to accept that we have set a course and will honour it to the end.
Editing is there to help the plot shine, to bring more vividness to the words, more clarity to meaning and more joy to reading. If editing is merely our excuse to get bogged down in the niceties of the plus-perfect or the subjunctive, we have hijacked it. (Unless we are writing our PhD thesis on the niceties of the plus-perfect or the subjunctive, in which case, best of luck, and you’re on your own, mate!)
Editing takes our ideas and polishes them so that other people, the outside world, strangers, will
- Understand them. Never to be underestimated. We may think we know what we mean, but do we know, are we sure, that a stranger will know what we mean?
- Enjoy them. By the time we get to editing, our words will be very familiar to us. We may not realise that there is room for improvement until we have had the courage to cull, clear away anything that we suspect may be over written, flowery, too opaque or unclear.