It’s the bane of many a writer’s sordid existence. In fact, I’ve tried to get around it for years. Yes, you’ve read that right. It’s understandable that when I wrote my first stories, I didn’t edit them at all: I was all of nine years old. But when I started writing poetry the summer after high school ended, I decided poetry was a different beast altogether. Poetry struck me in inspirational little lines scribed in the back of my head, and so was exempt from all the natural proceedings! Poetry was a gift from the gods! Poetry was certainly ABOVE editing; it was too lyrical, too abstract, too confined to the moment. I suffered from the impression that the way the words flowed out of me was the way they should stay; otherwise, I’d be untrue to the feel of the moment, and poetry is always trying to capture the feel of a moment, or several moments.
Obviously my writing suffered from this, though I didn’t think so at the time. I learned the value of rethinking line breaks (or thinking about them at all, which it’s hard to do the first time around), and noticed that when I wasn’t in the rush to get everything down before the mood or inspiration faded, I could afford to find word choices that might *gasp* EVEN BETTER describe what I was feeling at the time. If I wrote the poem down well enough the first time, I could retrieve the mood in which I wrote it and live in that place while I edited. My poetry editing became two-fold: I’d write the poem down as it came to me, when it came to me, and then I’d let it sit for a day at the least. I’d come back to it again the next day and if I still liked it well enough, I’d write up a copy on my laptop, this time inserting final line breaks and shifting my words about, and even deleting/adding sections as I saw fit. Poetry editing had lost its negative stigma for me; now I can’t see how I ever went without it.
I treat novelling different than I do poetry, both in the way I write a book and the way I edit. When I write a story, I feel as though there must be massive changes made, somehow, to the structure of the thing, before I can concentrate on grammar. There’s ALWAYS a better way I could have put something; my inner novel editor, unlike the one who edits my poetry with me, is a picky bitch. I can’t sweep through a chapter of a novel, only covering grammar and spelling mistakes, and feel I’ve done a thorough job. Therefore, while I can go through a poem once or twice and feel it has been editing to its best, it’s not uncommon that I NEVER feel my novels are properly polished.
I’ve recently begun to wonder why this is. Do others have this problem? Does anyone else who writes both poetry and prose feel that editing one is easier than the other? Maybe I should look at my novel more how I’m looking at my poetry: take it in pieces, look for discrepancies in plot and character, but pay attention to the wording in the way I attend to the rise and fall of the words in poetry. I hope for, one day, my two internal editors to become one.
For now I’ll go back to working on editing a book that totals 214 pages in Microsoft Word, and try not to cry about it ; )