Under The Microscope: Editing Your Written Work

Spending a year in lockdown has done wonders for my creativity. I progress a little more each day with the YA fantasy novel I’m working on, though, I still have a ways to go before I figure out how it will all end. I’ve managed to finish writing one short story as I currently work on another.

Finishing any kind of writing I do is an achievement. In the past I had no problem starting stories. Finishing them? That’s a separate matter. Having a fully written story, and one I feel is fairly decent, is exciting. All that’s left is the editing.

Editing should be one of the easiest parts about the writing process because all the words are on the page. Half the work is already done, but there’s still a lot to consider. Is the pacing of your story just right? Are your characters interesting? Does your story have conflict? Are you doing more telling than showing? This along with many other questions are what writers often have to ask themselves as they go back and fix any rough spots a story might have.

After writing a short story that was born out of an idea I came up with during a writing class, I find it a less daunting task to edit compared to the inevitable rewrites I’ll have to do for my novel. My short story feels complete with very little to rewrite, other than tiny tweaks that need to be made to really get it in the best shape possible for publication in a literary magazine.

Revisiting a completed work of fiction is like putting it under a microscope, analyzing each sentence, with a critical eye until you’re satisfied with the results you see. And if not, then improve upon the story until you’re truly happy with how it comes together.

I like to call the editing stage as the place where you can act as both the reader and writer. When you’re in the middle of writing a story it’s tough to really look at it in the eyes of a reader. You’re currently focused on putting all the ideas on the page and trying to steer the story to a clear beginning, middle, and end. And if you’re writing a work of fantasy? It only gets more complicated with the added task of building a world that doesn’t exist from the ground up.

While editing I’ve been able to scrutinize if a scene has the emotional weight I want it to have, or if certain sections of the plot is keeping the reader engaged or disengaged. With a short story I want to give enough details but keep the pacing tight to get to the central conflict of the story that leads to a conclusion that makes sense for the situation I placed my characters in. Editing can be fun if you’re not concerned with rewriting a huge chunk of the story you already have. It also helps to enlist a few of your most trusted friends, who are avid readers, to give your story a look.

My short story has gone through a number of edits, after having a few friends read through a draft and sending it back with their feedback, and it’s still not quite at the level of “ready to publish”. One of the things I realized about the editing phase is a writer will always feel like a story could still be better than what’s already there. Again, this is where the reputation of “writers are their own worst critic” comes in. Despite this nagging need to make your work “perfect” eventually you have to come to terms with the idea that nothing in life will ever be perfect, especially not a work of art, but it can come close. What matters is the effort you put into this piece of writing you did, and taking pride in creating something that came entirely from you and no one else.

Reaching the editing stage of the writing process is a reason to celebrate because it means you’re getting closer to the most coveted stage of all—publication. Writing can be one long and lonely road for many writers, but that journey is well worth it if it means you can one day call yourself a published writer.

2 thoughts on “Under The Microscope: Editing Your Written Work

  1. Ugh, editing is the worst part of the writing process for me. But it’s not the one that’s hardest to start, because like you mentioned, the words are already on paper. Anyway this was a great look into editing. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Editing the short story has been an easier experience for me because there isn’t a lot I need to rewrite and edit. I know I’ll feel differently when I finally finish the first draft of my novel. That thing is a beast and it’ll be so much harder to go through and figure out what to edit. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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