It’s sad, but very true, that most people hate editing. I do myself.

My son thinks that any form of writing is a scheme designed to torture little boys. He is bright, and his brain is perfectly capable of good work, but the simple fact is, he considers any form of writing to be a major interruption to his daily round of sports, playing and watching TV (or, when he thinks we won’t notice, videos on YouTube). This weekend for once I managed to get him to sit down and write his homework before he went out to play. He ensconced himself happily enough before my computer (this one) and researched his homework, which was all about the Poppy Appeal and First World War. He was genuinely interested. Then off he went to type up his work, and produced some good work. However, by then his mental stamina was reduced to the level that he could not continue. He was weary of such silly exercises, so he went up to his desk and before long I discerned the sounds of a boy who is no longer working. Balls bouncing, feet moving quickly and, still more obvious for my little brute, the high-speed whine of a boy simulating a car racing up and down his carpet.

On the Sunday he was supposed to read through, edit and finish things. But he’s a little boy. So, did he edit? Did he heck. He disappeared from the house at a little after nine, and returned finally (when hunted down and captured) at four thirty. Supper, with guests, prevented more work. So it wasn’t until this morning that I got a chance to run through the work with him.

It’s good. Yes, he found out a lot about the Poppy Appeal, and he was enthused about the subject – for the first few paragraphs. Then there was a scrappy final paragraph and a  sentence that was his “summary”.

Well, I don’t care much about summaries for primary school kids. I’ll let that pass. However, the final main paragraph did let things down a lot after the first few. And as soon as he read it, he saw it too. As well as the unnecessary apostrophe on “its”. Not a big one, but it was enough to make him angry with himself. He knew he should have seen that. So we agreed that we’ll look at it together this evening. He’s happy with that.

And why do I mention all this?

Because yesterday when I should have been at my desk doing MY edit, I was instead watching Remembrance Day on the TV, and then, because I was so moved by a retired paratrooper’s story of the attempt to capture Arnhem in Operation Market Garden, that I went and watched A Bridge Too Far.

At the end of the day, I’m no better than him, really. Damn.

For all the fact that my painting is an income-generator, and therefore a justified activity, mainly I am a writer, and my job is to sit here and write. So it’s rather sad that I can see in my own efforts the same desire to leave my desk and play with paints, or walk the dog, or go and practise setting up a tarp for a campsite, as my son!

So, today it’s back to the edit. Wish me luck – I’ll need it!

One small pile of paper to edit. Help!

One small pile of paper to edit. Help!

11 Responses to “Editing”
  1. Jack Eason says:

    Like father, like son :)


  2. lorsplace says:

    Wise words, Michael. Your son has a fabulous mentor… in so many ways!


  3. Granting myself free license to pick ‘n’ mix metaphors: you can’t put the egg before the chicken – so it seems to me that your son must be a chip off the old block and not the other way round!

    I have always been somewhat in awe of your 5,000 words per day productivity and sheer self-discipline when it comes to editing – and so for me, it is heartening to know that even a seemingly tireless and certainly prolific author such as you are, can struggle with the edit. It makes everything seem possible again and confirms my belief that persistence is the primary power driving the engines of success.

    Anyway, you’ve just got to do it, haven’t you? It’s not just a creative process – it’s a contractual obligation!

    All the best.


    • Yup. The edit is the hard bit – especially when the careful editor (she has a brain like a steel trap) has picked over it and found all those oh so damn obvious errors, from repetitions of the same word to simple faults in characterisation. Hmm. It’s the horrible part of writing, this sitting down and rereading for the twentieth time my own stale words … One week to go …


  4. knotrune says:

    It’s important for health to have a break from time to time, also as a boost to creativity. I find the mind can often work faster on a task after a break, so really, you might not be wasting time so much as using it more productively. Also, it’s never wrong to pause and remember the sacrifice of others, to respect that.

    It’s not as if you don’t then get back to work after your break. That’s the difference :)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jonathangreen says:

    Are you allowed to let us know what you are editing?


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