Ruthless editing

I was reminded the other day (by the Polon Copyrwriters) of the need for ruthless editing.  (It struck a chord with something I’d heard recently: ‘write fearlessly and edit ruthlessly’ - but I can’t remember where?)

They quoted Samuel Johnson on editing:

Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.

I’m in the editing stage of the big writing project that I’m working on just now, so there’s plenty of words falling on to the cutting room floor.  Actually I don’t mind the editing part, even if it means chopping out words that I think are particularly fine, or passages to which I’m particularly attached.

It’s the bit that comes later that I hate - the sections that need to be rewritten, or new material that needs to be produced so the whole thing makes sense to the reader.  I find that once I’ve written the words (the creative bit) then done the pruning (the editing bit) it’s a real struggle to find the motivation to start writing again.

Anyone else find that rewriting gets them down?  Better still - any tips on finding the motivation to get through?

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4 Responses to “Ruthless editing”

  1. On July 10, 2007 at 11:57 am Matt responded with... #

    We find the trick is not to become too attached to our first drafts. In fact, we get a bit worried if we find ourselves really pleased with them. It probably means we’ve overlooked something. Rewriting offers the chance to get nearer to perfection. It’s impossible to reach, of course. But we hope striving for it makes us better writers.

  2. On July 10, 2007 at 9:34 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Matt, thanks for stopping by and sharing the perspective from some professional copywriters. I like the idea of rewriting as the chance to get nearer to perfection.

    I’ll try holding this in my head once I’ve got the feedback and it’s time to pick up the pen (keyboard) again :)


  3. On April 5, 2009 at 10:01 pm Matt Hayward responded with... #

    I too find problems with rewriting stuff that I’ve worked on. Much like yourself, Joanna, I enjoy the initial writing, and don’t mind the editing (sometimes it can be fun).

    What I find with rewriting is a difficulty to regain the ‘vibe’ of a particular section/paragraph, which can often be captured in the initial writing even if not ‘up to scratch.’

    At least, that is one of my problems… Sometimes I get to the point where it feels like I may well need to start all over again. Especially if the original piece was written some time ago.

  4. On April 7, 2009 at 6:23 am Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Matt, I find rewriting hard too. Maybe that’s why I like blogging - the immediacy and the informality of the medium means you rarely need to spend time rewriting.


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