The Psychology of Editing


KlemsBlog-EditingSymbols2I had a minor revelation last night. Corpus is the first book I’ve written with the knowledge that the first draft wasn’t also the final one. This may sound daft but bear with me. I have in my life written a total of seven books. The first five were just for me, because the stories were in my head and demanded to be written down. They were never edited because they were never intended for anyone else’s viewing and I didn’t realise editing made that much of a difference. The sixth was Spiritus and, naturally enough, I wrote it in the same way. Then I got to the end and reckoned it might just be good enough to show other people. Those other people gently pointed out the flaws so I went back and did some fixing. I was resistant at first – in my mind, it was already finished – but reasonable enough to acknowledge that the fixes made it a better story. Editing was a necessary, even positive process.

So when I started writing Corpus, I was far less fixated on getting everything right the first time around. I knew there would be multiple drafts and that I’d have the opportunity to change or improve something when I came round again. It’s a small shift in thinking, and no doubt one I should have made years ago, but it has major ramifications in how I write. The first draft was much shorter and done much quicker than ever before. In going back through for the second, because I’m not being driven by the ideas for the story itself, I have the time to add nuance and character development – something that often got overlooked in Spiritus because the impetus of the action was louder in its demands to be written. I am less controlled by the story, and more IN control.

I’m also less resistant to change, and that’s critical. It’s a major hurdle for me to clear – I’m the kind of person who likes to plan everything in advance and gets quite irritable when events diverge from that plan. To accept from the start that my work will change, and to be entirely happy with that idea, is a big deal. And it means that I’m an active, willing participant in improving it.


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