On Editing and Revising

Why does the written word trick us into thinking our work is finished before it is? A sculptor would not mistake a rough for her sculpture. Perhaps it’s because words can be polished before the piece is.

Rewrites are the writer’s chisels and pumice.

ZORACH, W. (1935). TOOLS AND MATERIALS: IIC: CARVED SCULPTURE. The American Magazine of Art, 28(3), 156-160. Retrieved May 6, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23933026

I have been enjoying Brick Literary Journal’s YouTube Series, The Craft of Editing. The videos are beautifully produced discussions between writers and editors. The videos often include a close reading of the work before and after editing. The work being read has already been revised and yet, the final edits are sometimes quite small and always quite powerful. The videos have me thinking about my own writing process. I often create polished sounding first drafts that have gaps in the story. Polished words come easier than the cohesive story. I think that’s because sometimes what ends up on the page is prose shorthand for the deeper, more complex story in my mind. Reader’s questions help me see what is missing or confusing. But the hardest thing for me to do is let go of language that I love (even when it pulls the reader from the story).

The videos also have me thinking about the role I play when critiquing the work of other writers. I am an active member of critiquing circles and enjoy giving and receiving feedback. There’s an art to both. When giving feedback, I try and ask questions and share my experience as a reader so the writer can see if their work is having the intended impact. When my work is being read, I listen carefully for places of confusion or boredom. I also try to get multiple perspectives on a piece and look for patterns. That stops me from trying to rewrite for a single reader. Such is the curse of a writer with people pleasing tendencies!

I am also thinking about the role I will play in this first round of submissions for Tangled Locks Journal.

Would love to hear about how other writers feel about editing and revision. And if you have short prose or poetry that you would like to submit, submissions will be open through May.

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