Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Yard Work of Editing

by Karen Hoover

I was chatting with a neighbor the other day and the strangest thing popped out of my mouth. “Editing is like yard work,” I told her. The more I think about it, the more true it feels.

Every spring the snow melts and the weeds start to thrive and what do I do about it? Well, to begin with—nothing, but when it starts to overwhelm the yard I grudgingly pull out the rake and the hoe and get to work. I hack and rake and dig until I can find some beauty in the space. I lay fresh soil and fertilizer, maybe plant some seeds, and though the weeds are gone, all I see is a pile of dirt. The results don’t pop out right away. It takes some time and continuous work to see the beauty—effort that I really don’t enjoy.

The creative part is fun. A family picnic on beautiful grass on a glorious, summer day. It’s sheer joy—but the editing? Work, work, work.

Here’s the question: who wants to barbecue in a dead, weedy yard? Who wants to read an unedited book? Not me.

So, off to work I go. Gathering my thesaurus, critique comments, and laptop I’ll dig out the overused words and prune the bad habit of describing things in minute detail from my story. After that I’ll plant some seeds of emotion and adventure and wait for it to blossom into a publishable book.

The yard work of editing—the necessary evil of the writing life—but oh what joy it brings in the end.

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