Friday, February 06, 2009

Dancing By Myself

So, I've noticed something over the past few years. The differential in difficulty between editing my own stuff and editing other people's has shifted radically.

It used to be that I found it much easier to look objectively at someone else's words and make useful suggestions than to see the holes in my own sentences and stories. Now, I find the reverse is true. Not because editing other people has gotten harder—if anything it's simpler now—but because editing myself has gotten much easier. There are two reasons for that.

The first is that I've gotten more objective about my work, more able to see the flaws, particularly at the sentence and paragraph level. I suspect that's partially because my eye has gotten better, but mostly because I suck less in general and so the rough patches stand out more.

The second reason is that I can be utterly merciless with myself. I don't have to make suggestions, or gently bring issues to the attention of the writer. I can just fix the damn things and move on without spending time on polite. I can scrap hundreds of words at a go without feeling the least bit like I've killed somebody's brain child.

The funny thing about the realization is that it happened when I was editing two pieces of professional-quality writing.

What about you? Is it easier to fix your own literary children or to say necessary things about those belonging to others?

P.S. The other posts are still coming. This one just fell out of my head after 9,000 words of close-editing today.


Anonymous said...

In recent years I've been asked to be a reader but not an editor so I don't really know how it would go with editing other people's work. Editing my own used to be a nightmare but my experience has been very similar to yours, ie, more developed skills have led to fewer places that need the ax, and a lot of practice with the ax eventually removed the squick factor from seeing all the verbal viscera on the floor.

DKoren said...

My own, for exactly the two reasons you said!

Kelly Swails said...

Yep, I agree. Couldn't have said it better myself, so I won't. :)

Shawn Enderlin said...

i could totally say it better - oh wait, not really... :-)

but i can say that there is no substitute for being in a writing group. speaking for myself, i could have continued to edit my own stuff for years and i never would have developed as critical an eye as i have now.

the only way to truly develop those skills is to exercise them on a regular basis.