WYSIWYG text editors are possibly one of the finest innovations that has hit the world of writing. Look, I never had to generate a manuscript on a typewriter, I don’t know what it was like, but the ability to go in and shift a sentence around, insert a paragraph, change up a character’s name, all without having to completely retype a manuscript? Brilliant. Can’t imagine living without it. The ability to edit is always right there at your fingers.
The problem? The ability to edit is always right there at your fingers.
There are two directions I could take this. I could look at the need to push forward, or I could look at the need to edit more deliberately at times. The former is at my blog. This is the latter.
I’ve taken to a new form of editing that is working rather well for me when I feel that a story has an overarching problem, or when I want to just make sure it doesn’t. Print it out. The whole thing. Every last word of it. Then walk away from your computer and read it. The whole thing. Ideally in one sitting. Digest your story the way a reader will, as one single unit while sitting on the crapper. Okay, perhaps not to that extreme, but it’s important to remember that anything shorter than a novella is going to be read by at least a portion of the audience as a single unit. So it has to work as a single unit.
I find when I’m editing in Word, I’m (to coin a phrase) micro-editing. I’m looking at things at the sentence level, the word choice level, perhaps at the paragraph level. But what I’m almost never doing is considering the work as a whole. That’s because even with a relatively short story, micro-editing is a slow enough process that it eliminates my ability to keep the whole of the story in my head at once. With a longer story? Micro-editing is often a multi-night, or at least multi-session, process. So at the end, I print the whole thing out, and I make sure it still works as a whole. You’d be shocked how three perfect consecutive paragraphs do not make for a perfect page, or how a few otherwise perfect pages don’t quite string together into a story. There’s a point where you need to not be micro-editing, and be macro-editing instead.
So go back to the old days, when a manuscript was a cohesive unit and needed to be treated as such. When a major rewrite was just that: a rewrite, and not just changing the contents of a file. I’m even considering playing with the idea of physically rewriting a story as an editing pass, though that experiment will have to wait until I don’t have nearly so many stories on deadline of three weeks or less. If I do, I’ll tell how it goes, cause I always need more blog content.