A Few Words On The Editing Process

A Few Words On The Editing Process

The best advice I've learned about becoming a better writer.
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This week, I return to editing. I unpack my pens, take out my notebooks and open my word processor to the same opening chapter, visiting familiar first lines I have visited hundreds of times before—begrudging passes and red ink at 3:00 a.m. with only caffeine to fuel me.

It's nothing new for me. My world seems to always come back to editing at some point. In 2013, I started and finished a journey in writing my first novel. Quite coincidentally, I began attending college around the same time. A full plate of writing and essays since entering school and an even bigger project when I realized that my lovely first draft of a novel was not finished until I had edited it. For most students, the idea of editing the average essay is a painful thought. My novel had landed somewhere around 155,000 words.

It fills me with dread just thinking about it.

After three years of working, college and writing in conjunction, I've learned a thing or two about the editing process. That which has brought out the best in my academic writing has, in turn, brought my novel where it is today. The struggle is ever-present and complicated, but these are a few of the best pointers I've found for editing one's writing, both creative and professional.

Distance is key.

Contrary to the popular trend of the all-nighter, most of us need more time to edit than 24 hours (not to say I haven't been there, but hear me out). Any time we write a first draft, we are only experiencing what Terry Pratchett called “telling ourselves the story.” Whether it's a 2,000 word essay or a 50,000 word novel, early drafts tend to spill out in messy, unpolished concepts. Revision and editing are not new applications to remedy the chaos of a first draft, but distance is often very important in churning out quality products. I usually give 48 hours to return to papers for classes, and a minimum of two weeks before returning to any creative project. The less familiar you are with your work, the easier it will be to edit and find your own errors in the long run.

Kill your darlings.

The art of writing is paired, hand in hand, with the art of deleting. Another quote about writing often coined and used is the famous “kill your darlings," meaning we must part with aspects of our projects, even if we love them. Once you're put some distance between you and the draft, you often find yourself with a slew of content you no longer need. After multiple edits, actually, a work can begin to reshape or even change altogether. Some of the most difficult points in the writing process are where you have a piece that you absolutely, completely and totally adore, and it no longer fits with the rest of the work. I tend to keep a file for deleted scenes or sentences I'm fond of. They always find their way back into your writing, one way or another. Sacrificing words from a work will often strengthen it, in the long run.


The more eyes, the better.

When all editing is said and done and you have properly cleaned up your work, it is in your best interest to hand off your writing to a few trusted friends and well-read eyes. For some, the idea of opening an unfinished work to criticism causes more anxiety than finishing the work itself. Nevertheless, there is something great about the presence of a reader in a project. My beta-readers, past and present, have been some of the most valuable voices in changes and last edits. They can catch errors, continuity problems and tone changes that you might have otherwise missed. It can be a frightening part of the editing process, but worth the bravery it can take.

What are your favorite pieces of editing advice, or tricks that get you through a drafts? Do your processes differ with your creative and academic work?

Cover Image Credit: My Shelby Library

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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.
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Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

SEE ALSO: 18 Signs You're A Little Too Comfortable With Your Best Friends

The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

SEE ALSO: 15 Things You Say To Your Roommates Before Going Out

The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.


Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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Short Stories On Odyssey: Roses

What's worth more than red roses?

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Five years old and a bouquet of roses rested in her hands. The audience-- clapped away her performance, giving her a standing ovation. She's smiling then because everything made sense, her happiness as bright as the roses she held in her hands.

Fifteen now, and a pile of papers rested on her desk. The teachers all smiled when she walked down the aisle and gave them her presentation. She was content then but oh so stressed, but her parents happy she had an A as a grade, not red on her chest.

Eighteen now and a trail of tears followed her to the door. Partying, and doing some wild things, she just didn't know who she was. She's crying now, doesn't know anymore, slamming her fists into walls, pricking her fingers on roses' thorns.

Twenty-one and a bundle of bills were grasped in her hands. All the men-- clapped and roared as she sold her soul, to the pole, for a dance. She's frowning now because everything went wrong, but she has to stay strong, for rich green money, is worth more than red roses.

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