How much editing is required?




This was something that was brought sharply to my attention recently after joining a new writing club in our area.

It was proposed that we write 237 words deliberately, so that we should omit words that weren’t needed from the passage and thus learn the editing process.

We could choose our own topic. As we were a mixed group, I imagined the poetry writers would write poetry, ones who wrote non-fiction would choose an article and story writers would opt for fiction.

I decided to be lazy. I didn’t want to think up a new piece of writing, so I looked at the last chapter of the novel that I was working on and chose a piece from it. At first I was happy with what I had chosen. I had selected writing that would stand on its own.

I edited the work to fit the criteria of 237 words, but it wasn’t clear to me that I had more  work to do on it, until my daughter read it. She had no idea what it was about and I didn’t explain anything when I asked her to read it.

It was when she started asking questions about who was speaking at one part and also she wasn’t clear on what a phrase meant. Also she told me she had to read a sentence twice because she couldn’t get the meaning.

I realised that in the context of the novel, it was easy to understand, but now that it was separated, I would have to remember the reader might not understand.

So I set out to edit it again thinking of the reader reading it for the first time and choosing my words more carefully. I also decided to forget about the word count until I had finished.

At this time I was reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ book and one publisher had given him good advice – Write the 1st Draft and on the 2nd Draft deduct 10%. It does make it sharper and more meaningful. What is cut away wasn’t needed. I may after this experience become a better writer.

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