Editing versus Revision

I have just read a great post by a fellow named Martin Stewart, a dreamy-eyed Scot (two thumbs up right there) who has a great deal of common sense on the topic of revision. Note: Martin calls it ‘editing,’ but that’s because he’s not an editor himself. From this writer’s perspective, what he’s doing is revision.

Before I give you the link, let us examine the difference between editing and revision. In a nutshell, editing is what I do for others, revision is what I do for myself.

When I edit, I’m helping a writer get their manuscript in the best possible shape for its readers, whether that be agents or the reading public. So I work with something that already exists. Often I will suggest a new plot element or changes in characterization, better scene dynamics or sharper clarity in prose–but never just for fun. My sole intent is to take what the writer has created and bring out the best in it. It’s the world’s most satisfying intellectual and emotional puzzle for me, and if it weren’t a job I’d be in trouble.

When I revise, on the other hand, I’m staring down at the misshapen baby on the delivery table and trying to decide if four arms is an asset or a liability. I’m not the doctor, I’m the Creator. I’m amputating body parts. I’m growing it a new head. I’m running naked through the woods, top-heavy. Not sure where that last thought came from.

In other words, revision is a lot more personal. Because of that, there’s an element of fear.

Yet here is Martin Stewart advising writers to relish revision. His attitude is almost magical. For example, the question of cutting. I call bits and pieces that I cut (some of them are entire scenes, some are entire novels) FRAGMENTS. Scenes I couldn’t shoehorn in without wrecking the book go to the CEMETERY.

But Martin Stewart stores his unused bits and early drafts in the SHED OF WONDER. “Every little gem that is bravely cut goes into the Shed of Wonder.”

He goes on to suggest some terrific ways to quell your fear and make a joyful attack on the process of revision.

Here is the link to Mr. Stewart’s post: http://jennybent.blogspot.ca/2015/05/martin-stewart-on-editing-process.html


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