How Do Writers Edit Their Work?

Sometimes I feel chained to what I write and put out ‘there’ any where. I’m not sure…perhaps it is different for a poet? Me, especially…trying to sum something up in 100 words or usually less. How do writers decide that what they have written is worth being born into the whatever published world?
I’ll start the answering with:
A few months, maybe years, later…I’ll see something I wrote so long ago. It’s not that I’m unchanging in my views…just sometimes I run across something I wrote and tossed out as garbage and discover that, upon another look at, it may even say something more to ME today. I believe that is the blessing of being a poet. We poets don’t have to tie up the loose ends and weave it all together to meet some plot’s desire.
Yet, I so often feel defeated. I wonder of this and welcome comments to this thread:
How do we, as writers, determine what is significant in our work? Or not significant? What sorts of editing techniques do we use? I wish I could phrase it better and hope this won’t matter.  I hope to open some discussion about writing and editing….comment as you please 😛

About Ellespeth

I'm a poet. Sometimes I write stories and other nonsense. Ellespeth

10 comments on “How Do Writers Edit Their Work?

  1. It’s funny, but at least half of what I’ve put out on my blog as ‘preview’ bits for my WIP have been trashed. It’s almost as though they needed a semi-public forum for me to see what needed to be changed, fixed or thrown away.
    I don’t know if I determine significance, but if it makes me cringe upon reading it an hour, day or week (even years) later, then it needs to be fixed. Sometimes that means a ruthless slashing at darlings, other times its a tweak. I think our own editing can be so subjective, and that’s why other readers are so valuable. Their word is not gospel, but it can shed light onto questions we already had on our work, but didn’t know how to approach.

    • Yes! And lucky we are to receive the comments, likes, etc. These may not subjugate us to changing anything but are helpful. I’m wondering if we don’t take comments/lack of comments or likes to mean too much to our work? I’m just not sure…thanks for your thoughts on this!

  2. Other readers and editors who have an objective opinions definitely make a difference. There were three chapters of my book condensed to one. In my not so humble opinion, the first three chapters could have been tossed, the next three could have been condensed to one, and it would have been a much better read. I took the advice of others, but still wonder if I could have worked on it longer…and then I LAUGH at myself, because I know, if it was left entirely up to me and me alone, it would have never been “just right”.

    • “…if it was left entirely up to me and me alone, it would have never been “just right”. That’s so true – this aim to be “just right”…I wonder, sometimes, what that “just right'” moment is to us as writers. How much of the “just right” do we give away? How much of us is lost in order to translate to others what is clearly meant in our souls?

  3. Not sure about the significance. As fro editing technique, I read my work after a break and look at it with fresh eyes. This is where I find unneeded lines and areas that I need to flush out. Some stories are easier to work with than others though. I guess one edits until their satisfied or notice they’re making changes simply for the act of making changes.

    • That’s interesting, Charles. I tend to be impatient with my own work – and myself. Something I’m trying to change. I’m sure there are some poems of mine that – if I looked at them, less critically, I might find still something worthwhile. I’ll know more about this as I begin to put my little poetry book together. We’ll see…

  4. If I can re-read something I’ve written and I like the way it flows, I keep it. I’m usually not happy with it unless I’ve done some editing though. When I read my own work it’s like music, in my head. If there is a word or sentence that makes the record skip or stutter, I change it.
    But that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m completely happy with it. Much of the time I just get to a point where I throw up my hands and say, “That’s it! I’m done editing.” You’ve got to stop somewhere.

    • I like a certain beat to my writing, too. I tend to over strive for that – or at least that is my current thought about my own writing. I think I may take a few of my poems and see if I can’t get them all messed up with no beat. Hmmm…the thought gives me nightmares!

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