"Why not have the reader re-read a sentence now and then? It won't hurt him." -Nabokov
I’ve self-published all my written work. There used to be more: I had a Facebook from like ’04, a Twitter from ’09, and numerous blogs over the decades. I deleted them all over the past few years, and righteously so as those words were all unconsidered first draft nonsense. There were probably some lucky nuggets of truth in there, but I’m not ashamed to admit that the bulk of it was pretense and posturing and above all unedited.
It has taken me a very long time to appreciate the art and necessity of editing. For most of my early writing career I failed, outright, to recognize the critical importance of reading. I felt that too much reading would be detrimental to my style; that it would somehow infect my aesthetic and I’d end up aping some other author’s voice instead of staying true to my own. This was prideful hogwash. I was only depriving myself of intellectual development.
There are, of course, caveats and methods that govern becoming a good reader, but one of the most important things is that without a strong ability to read, not only for pleasure but for comprehension, you cannot possibly hope to edit, and therefore any written work you do will suffer greatly.
It’s important to note that editing does not equal censoring. It used to, back when the Church had a stranglehold on publishing, and still does in certain parts of the world. To me it means making as careful a reading as possible of a written work and diligently looking for ways to improve it. Sometimes this means cleaning out the dross. Sometimes this necessitates additional writing, which must then go through the processes again to determine its utility in refining the author’s intended message.
The Artful Edit is an excellent exploration of this premise. I now firmly believe in the benefit of extensive self-editing and have found that it produces far more cohesive results than I ever thought myself capable of. If you’re a writer who truly cares about your craft and, most importantly, your reader’s experience, this book is essential.