Posts Tagged ‘the creative process’

My favorite part of writing is editing.

I love the writing part.  Once I’m into a story, the words just pour out.  Writing offers me an escape from reality into a world of my own making; a world where I am in control.  It is an escape that no naturally occurring or man-made substance can enable – just take my word for it.

But editing is to writing what sculpting is to marble.

Writing is essential.  I cannot begin the work until the words and the story are on the page.  But it is editing that reveals the work.

My first book, Say Uncle, was just a little over three hundred pages when it was first published.  When it first arrived at the my publishers it weighed in at well over five hundred.  There was a part of the book that wasn’t working for me, somehow, but I couldn’t say why.  My wonderful editor Peter saw the problem at once.

The book is about the relationship between two members of a two member family.  In the part of the book that wasn’t working for me one of those two people was missing.  When Peter pointed it out, it was like a door being thrown open in a dark room.  Two hundred and fifty pages vanished.  They were fun and well written, they just didn’t belong in that book.  Under my editor’s watchful eye, I retold those excised aspects of the story.  I wrote a couple of the book’s best chapters and completely changed the ending.

Say Uncle was better and stronger than before.  Like Michelangelo, I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

That’s editing.

I mourn the increasing loss of this relationship.  I feel the absence in the hollow and incomplete works that are published more and more.  Most novels are all marble and no angel.

Publishing is floundering.  There are a lot of theories.  Most blame technology.  I think it’s because little or no value has been placed on writers by publishers.  Magazines, newspapers and books may or may not survive this technological tipping point that is upon us.  But the creators of content will be the same as always.  The writers, the storytellers, will endure as they did even before the written word, certainly before the printed one.  It seems to me that those trying to preserve publishing in its present form may have missed that.

I wrote a book for a famous person in the last few years.  She didn’t write a single word of it, beyond those of hers that I quoted.  That was the deal.  She was the selling point, but there was no book before there was me.  Still, I wasn’t kidding myself.  The crowds that were lining the streets days in advance of our signings were coming to see her.

Our first signing though was a private one, at the publisher.  I fully expected to be ignored at most of our signings, but this one I thought would be a little different.  These were publishers.  These people knew I had written the book.  This skyscraper had been built by writers.  I still didn’t expect to be the center of attention, but I was surprised that only one person present asked me to sign his book or expressed any interest in meeting me.

I’m still writing.  My “co-author”? Not so much.  Probably most of the people in attendance that day have been laid off since.

Publishing as we know it will not survive if it does not provide a place to nurture writers and to allow their work to flourish.  The environment has never been more hostile to writers than it is today.  Editing and the relationship between editors and writers seems lost.

But it is not my job to save publishing.  They’ve had a great run.  It’s been 570 years since the technological revolution brought about by the printing press.

Perhaps it’s time for the immediacy of the digital world to come to writing.  I celebrate that this new medium may at last empower writers.  I worry though about the loss of editing.  In our rush to get the work into the hands of consumers and our hands into their wallets, what is lost?

What of all those angels, trapped in the marble, never to be set free.


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