I have a confession to make. If you were to ask me my biggest flaws as a writer, I’d probably mutter an excuse about purple prose before ashamedly admitting to my greatest writing sin: I despise editing.
I never edited my first series of (unpublished) novels. I am sure that if I were to read far enough into them, they’d be riddled with plot holes and whole legions of spelling and grammar mistakes that are the hallmarks of a first draft.
I wrote those 1,076 pages – roughly 350,000 words – when I was in my early teens. It just doesn’t feel right to go back and change the words and ideas I labored so long over. There is something sacred about one’s first work, and I cannot bring myself to break the spell I cast so many years ago.
I am beginning to see the virtues of editing, particularly as I tend to discovery write my fiction. I am also starting to go back and rework some of my poems, though I still find editing a struggle.
I am on the third draft of this poem:
The Last of the Snows Came in May
it quickened my heart
to see the new buds in your garden
wither and turn their faces back
to the loamy soil that birthed them,
and whose final freezing, like the closing of a door,
had brought with it the cold breath of Chaos,
face pale and bloodless, as yours had been,
curling my shaking fingers
’round some glittering, ill-omened thing;
our promise ring.
An earlier draft is also published on this site, should you like to see the progress I’ve made. I am still working on the poem, still changing and tweaking and fiddling.
If pressed to say why editing is so difficult for me, I would explain that I get far too attached to my writing – my characters, my prose, my metaphors; everything.
To call on those who have quoted and misquoted Faulkner, I suppose I must ‘kill my darlings’ more often.
I’m off to do just that.