What about editing?

When I write a book, I don’t leave it to an editor to do all the tidying up, the trawling and correcting. The chances are, for every time I write a phrase, I will edit it about four times, and even then, I regret the words that didn’t make it onto the page.

Writing, for me, is at best a compromise, rather like the one that faces a youngster deciding what to do with his or her life: the horizon is so wide, which way should they go? What subjects should they study, specialise in, care about and invest in? What will they do when they grow up?

And as with writing, the blank page is full of potential which somehow, mystically, never quite lives up to the dream. I would make the same suggestion as I would for work. Write what you are good at, write what you know and what you enjoy.


Editing – the second stage, third stage and nth stage tidy up – is so much a part of the craft of writing, that it is hard to know where the line between them is drawn. It is with editing that we discover newer, brighter, wittier ways of showing our thoughts at their best. Editing fills in the gaps between what we think we are writing, and what others take from our meaning: the two can come apart in startling ways. Editing is also polish that makes a work look effortless, and gives it slick clarity.

My sister, who edits, was telling me that a lot of people these days, they either don’t edit, or they expect that mythical editor to do it for them. Indeed, this seems to be a common assumption, based, understandably on the fact that there are those out there who call themselves editors. Writers write, and editors edit, right? In truth, not always, and I find it unwise to rely too much on others, or – even more deadly – to expect from them services which they don’t or can’t deliver. Yes, I get my work edited by professionals, especially when I need a shove down one particular avenue or towards a particular theme; but I always, always endeavour to edit my work as much as I can, before and afterwards, and to stay on the course, take responsibility for the final version of what I write about. That seems vital to me; or else, how can I put my name to it?


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