The Pursuit of Editing Perfection

“I write, therefore I re-write.” This is a common position among writers, as we know that whatever brilliance we think we may have at one time put upon the page, that, now, we can do better. For me, it’s like looking at myself in pictures from the 90s and thinking, How did I think stone-washed jeans looked cool then?  My fashion sense has vastly improved.

We may tinker and toy with our work ad nauseam. We can over-think it, and sometimes destroy inspired work in the pursuit of editing perfection, which–I’ve realized–is impossible. Not impossible in paragraphs or pages. Not impossible with character, witty dialogue, or story structure. But in totality, probably, yes. Like “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of the goal is preached, celebrated, and declared as all-important. Sadly, it’s not often achieved. Even the best writers and their agents or publishers employ editors, sometimes multiple ones, in an effort to improve the work beyond its absolute capacity for perfection. (A flawlessly edited book can still be a bore to read, too, which is a whole other Oprah.)

Facing perpetual editing is an awful burden. Relentless writers who seek perfection through editing, so to provide specific, intended impact to the reader, are tortured heroes. The editing process is an important one, where prose is sharpened, plot and character inconsistencies are remedied, and stories evolve for the better. Readers benefit greatly from it.

Eventually, though, there comes a time when the writer must be comfortable walking away from the work, so to let new juices emerge. It’s how we flourish as writers. I’m currently doing my last run-through edit of The Silent Partner–this time, approving changes by the publisher’s line-editing team, so it can be published and I can get started on the next project.

As long as The Silent Partner is perfectly edited, that is.


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