The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. ~ Mark Twain
The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is. ~ August Wilson
Editing. The arduous and grueling job of the creator of universes and worlds and everything in between. That which exists only on the pages we type and in the expansive imaginations of writer and reader alike, trembles as a calf at the smell of blood on the slaughterhouse floor.
The killing blades are sharpened.
The edge of the butcher’s knife is honed.
Gloves are donned.
Leather aprons acquired to catch the splatter of blood.
The author and book alike are dragged by a yoke around the necks onto the killing floor…
Why do we pretend editing is so grueling and horrible and horrendous and adverb and adverb…? Why do we, writers as a whole, create blog entry after blog entry, tweet upon tweet, espousing the horrors of editing a book? Why do we claim the first draft is supposed to be a pile of words so inarticulate a two-year old would turn their nose up at it as if a pile of vomit?
Do we writers do this in attempts to make the writing life appear as grueling as a Triple Ironman? So the unknowing public can look at us and think “There is one insane sadistic sonuvabitch. Wrote a story, now he/she is onto editing. No thank you.”
Possibly we frame our thoughts on editing because we like to think it is that way. We don’t want to allow ourselves to think the 100,000 words we wrote, chopped down to 20,000 words, and brought back up to 80,000 words is an entirely new book. Rather we tell ourselves, this is editing. It’s the same basic idea, so it cannot be a new book, it must be the same book only edited.
Why not say it for what it is; so easy I can make comments on my story using a Kindle phone app which I then look at while editing my book. Yes, that is what I use the Kindle app on my phone for.
So, yes. If you write a first draft so awful, so cringe inducing, to look at it is to hold your hand to a flame; maybe you are not editing the book. Perhaps when you chop it to pieces as gleefully as a pig burrowing through soil for truffles, you are writing a new novel that needs only a few minor cosmetic changes.
Editing isn’t horrible. Editing is taking tarnished silver, dunking it into a bucket of CLR, and then pulling it out to reveal something shiny. Not new, still the same, just better.