Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Editing Process

When I was asked to write a blog post for my organisation's blog, I put on my most cerebral cap and tried to come up with a definitive thesis on the state of primary education in India. After six abortive attempts (spread over seven days) to go beyond the first paragraph, I decided to quit attempting to be someone else, and just be myself. Half an hour later, I had a 'straight from the heart' story of an amazing girl who couldn't even write her name at 9, but who, after the timely intervention of a local charity, became the first in her family to graduate from high school. I thought my job was done after I proof read the post, corrected a few minor typos, and sent it off with a bunch of accompanying photographs.

Little did I suspect that was only the beginning. The post came back to me after a week, accompanied by a mail which said, "We love it, but.......". The list of suggested edits seemed longer than my entire post! Far from "loving" my post, they seem to have found something wrong in every paragraph.

"But this is the best part of the whole post", I often wanted to scream. "If I take it out, there would be nothing left." I am, however, a professional and I always listen to other professionals, so I soldiered on.

Editing the post took three times as much time as writing it had done. But when I re-read it after I was done, I was in for a very pleasant surprise - the new post was much better than the first draft had been. The parts I had been asked to take out would not have made sense to someone who did know know me and my writing style- the post that ultimately went up was accessible to everyone.

I have always shied away from the editing process- I now realise that even if it is as painful as a root-canal treatment, it is also as necessary.


And if you do want to read the blog post, click onto From a Construction Site to a Courtroom.

32 comments:

Will Burke said...

Oh yeah, the pruning process is always painful. Glad you were happy with the end result, though.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

See? You made something even better!

ladyfi said...

The editing process takes much longer than the actual writing. It's all about compromising to get the best solution in the end.

Margot Kinberg said...

Rayna - I agree that the editing process is hard. It's hard to have to change something that one wrote and maybe loved. And let's face it, sometimes it's hard to accept that one's writing needs work. But editing is also a great reminder (to me, anyway) that we can always learn something and grow. And your article really is fantastic! It's funny you would choose this topic at this time; I'm in the middle of editing, myself, and it is not fun!! Thank you for reminding me to just do it.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Will- very hard to let go, but the end result is worth it, I think

@ Alex- painful, all the same. How you writers do it is actually beyond me

@ Fiona- and accepting that someone else may know more than I do about my work

@ Margot- I am glad if I could help. It is painful, but I guess it is also necessary to churn out something professional

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Cute little pouty face! I agree, the editing process can be painful.

Carol Kilgore said...

Excellent article, Rayna. Education is where it's at.

Mason Canyon said...

Editing can be the most difficult of any writing. Popping over to read your excellent post.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Dyche Designs said...

Editing can be hard to take for sure. I once had a boss who was a micro manager and love to overly edit (think he was addicted to his red pen). I then transferred to a boss who had a hands off approach (not a red pen in sight) and I flourished. Saying that I do realize there are times when we're too close to a subject and someone else is able to suggest changes that end up being beneficial to all. Keep up the great work.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I always *act* like I'm happy to make revisions when I'm emailing my editor, but I usually just dread them. Like you, though, I've found they always make my work better!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Debra- LoL

@ Carol- thank you, so much

@ Mason- it is a pain

@Katheryn - both types of bosses can be a pain to work for- and you only realise the merits of one after you encounter the other

@ Elizabeth- you said it. It is a difficult process till after it is done

KarenG said...

Editing can take FOREVER, even a short post! I can't even imagine how long you take on your drabbles, getting them just right.

Clarissa Draper said...

Editing is always more difficult for me than writing. It does take 3x as long for me as well.

CD

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ KarenG- strangely, drabbles are relatively easy. You know there is only so long it can be, so it is easy to let go the unnecessary bits.

@ Clarissa- it does, doesn't it? I guess it is because we do a lot of writing in the head, but cannot do the same with editing.

RA said...

As always, you make perfect sense. :) And I do know exactly what you mean.... :D

Stephanie Faris said...

It's part of it and it sucks sometimes! That's the part about writing for a living that is difficult...rather than writing for yourself. I spent most of my 20s in a PR job that required me to write copy for newsletters, etc., and my boss was a former English teacher. I came from a Journalism background where the rules are sort of different...so his changes sometimes clashed with what I'd been taught. But I learned SO much from him and it helped me grow as a writer. One big thing I learned was that sometimes you have to write in a way that might not be what YOU think is best but satisfies what your audience/boss/etc. wants to read...

Aleta said...

When someone else edits, it feels like a butcher to your heart. I'm glad you were able to overcome such feelings and create a post accessible to everyone. Is there any way you can share the story?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My articles always need editing - desperately! I struggle through the first draft, let it sit, and then draft #2 looks nothing like the original. (Makes me wonder why I bothered to write it the first time - LOL!)
Glad you had confidence in yours from start to finish.

Laura Eno said...

Brutal! I'm glad that all your hard work was satisfying to you though.

LTM said...

painful as a root canal? Yep. Although root canals aren't *supposed* to be painful anymore... ;p

I know, editing makes everything better. But I don't know how you could get better than that FACE!!!

LOVE that picture~ :o) <3

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ RA- thank you

@ Stephanie- So true. I used to clash with my first boss too, because while I did have a formal tone of writing, his was positively archaic. BUT, many years down the line, I realise how much I actually learnt from him- he was the one who made me realise that one has to write differntly for different audiences.

@ Aleta- I have linked to the story, but I will be glad to send you the link. And yes, it is almost like someone pushing in a knife.

@ Diane- I am so glad to hear that it happens even to seasoned veterans like you

@ Laura- immensely.

@ Leigh - the lead up to the root canal was excruciating. But the process itself was numb. I guess that describes this too!

And I do love that picture too.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ RA- thank you

@ Stephanie- So true. I used to clash with my first boss too, because while I did have a formal tone of writing, his was positively archaic. BUT, many years down the line, I realise how much I actually learnt from him- he was the one who made me realise that one has to write differntly for different audiences.

@ Aleta- I have linked to the story, but I will be glad to send you the link. And yes, it is almost like someone pushing in a knife.

@ Diane- I am so glad to hear that it happens even to seasoned veterans like you

@ Laura- immensely.

@ Leigh - the lead up to the root canal was excruciating. But the process itself was numb. I guess that describes this too!

And I do love that picture too.

Jackee said...

"The post that ultimately went up was accessible to everyone."

Brilliant! I'll have to remember that next time I get a harsh critique. Thanks, Rayna!

Cheers,
Jackee

Dorte H said...

Editing sucks - but then it just has to be done. I have realized recently that in order to survive the long editing process, I have to begin planning a new venture at the same time, or I´ll simply get depressed. My imagination needs to brew new crimes.

Sree said...

true.. editing is vital

Theres just life said...

Even on my blog it takes me 3 times longer to edit it before I post it. I type up the blog in office the transfer to blogger then edit. If you compare them side by side sometimes it doesn't even look like I'm talking about the same thing.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Jackee- that is the purpose of writing, isn't it?

@ Dorte- that is a point too. Thought, to be honest, I would rather just leave the editing process alone.

@ Sree- absolutely

@ Pamela Jo- that is really something. Wish I could be that particular about my blog posts.

Patricia Stoltey said...

What a perfect photo to complement this post! That's exactly how I feel when I receive lots of comments and suggestions back from my editor.

gargimehra said...

Very good article, very well-written.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Patricia- that is an apt photograph, isn't it? Thanks.

@ gargimehra- thank you.

dipali said...

I loved your article. (It also reminded me so much of my long ago days with Mobile Creches).
I can imagine how painful the editing process must have been. I guess it requires a degree of detachment from one's writing which is not always easy to come by.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Dipali- Mobile Creches does really awesome work. Proof of it is the number of kids who graduate out, and return as teachers!
And I guess, when it comes to professional writing, I trust other professionals. Not sure if I would be as detached if it were "my" stuff.

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