Framework for SuccessA Lesson by
Professional editor Nicholas Klacsanzky discusses the three essential processes that a writer uses to achieve their greatest product.
Before I ramble on in my enthusiasm for editing (I know, I'm a dork), I want to supply some information about who I am and why this course is important to a writer. Scroll down to Framework for Success if you want to skip my introduction and get to the juice.
Before I was a professional book editor and marketer for books, I was a writer who loved putting down as much material as I could. Editing was rarely on my mind, as I thought my work only needed a little revision: to make sense to the reader - enough revision so that people didn't think I sucked. But after a few mentors made me face my carelessness, I realized that editing is just as important as writing. Now that I have written nine manuscripts, I am entrenched in a editing process that sees no end. This endlessness, though, brings a certain joy: that your work can continually improve.
That is the main reason why I believe editing is so important to a writer. When long-term editing takes place, a piece can transform into another entity that you would have never thought you could have written. The best of your writing abilities come out when you edit. You will be amazed, that after months of staring at the same page, you will still see something that can make that page better. It is one of mysteries of writing: when you think you have finished a piece, there is always something you could do to it that could make it stronger in your eyes. This might happen over years of editing - where you leave something as finished, and approach it years later with a more mature perspective.
The framework for success that I give below is a way to produce work that you are truly satisfied with. It may take more patience than you are accustomed to, but in the long-term, you will be much happier with you work. Though this process has worked invariably for me, it might not work miracles for you. Even so, I think it is still a beneficial learning experience to go through the process of the framework.
Framework for Success
Three magic words: work, check, edited. These are the labels used in the framework.
Say you got a poem freshly written from yesterday, named Holding Zero. Label right beside its title (work):
Holding Zero (work)
I got caught up in the derivative.
Explaining a teapot pouring
is wanting an answer to an answer.
I sip to make it dissapear. To erase
the words that held their symbols.
Novels are many blank sheets.
Editing is cutting birth.
Being a writer is done over the phone
with a teleprompter telling robots
how to think about their hands as human.
Machines are made with blood.
Don't sacrifice anymore.
> Now that you have slapped on that title, you got to get to work. But what is defined as work? These are the things that bother me in a piece of writing that is being subjected to editing:
1) Cracking down on over-used words. Does the writing sound like what's been said a billion times?
2) Does it sound off to you when you read it? Sound has a lot to do with how one feels about a piece of writing. Reading the writing aloud is super important in terms of this aspect.
3) Is the organization clear? Or is it a mass of collected phrases that only jumbles around in the reader's mind?
4) On the watch for the unnecessary. Does that really need to be there? Could I simplify that without hurting the piece?
5) And finally, you got your gut. What makes you subtly cringe - what makes you doubt in the piece's ideal situation?
So let's take a look at this poem of ours with these guidelines. Well, the first thing I notice is that the first line could be cut down:
"I got caught up in the derivative." Could be "Caught up in the derivative."
This follows the unnecessary principle. But I also see something else in the first line that is disturbing me. "Caught up" is something I have heard a billion times. There's got to be a phrase that could flare this up.
After storming through my brain, I conjure:
Got twisted in the derivative.
It has good sound sense, rhythm, and well, it is just better than "caught up."
So, that was one line. Now you got the rest to worry about. The key to the framework is to edit as good as you can every time you sit down with your work. When you have done all you can at that moment, leave it for tomorrow.
When tomorrow comes, there is a two-way path. One path is that you can still find things to work on, and another path is that you can't possibly find something to work on. Say you are really lucky and find that you are clueless as to what you can improve in your piece. It is now the time to christen your work with the new label (check), and you once again leave it for tomorrow. Time away from the work is essential to let your editing breathe with vitality.
And once again, on the next day you approach your selected piece, you are supremely lucky. You come upon the piece and cannot, without a doubt, add or take away from the work. Then you get the rare privilege of stamping your work with the label (edited). While most of the time a work with the (edited) stands up against whatever I flail at it, it does happen occasionally that time changes my perception on a piece enough where I can work on it again. If you are really ambitious, you can at that time return the label to (work) status.
So, does that process make sense to you? Just to make sure you caught the essential points of the framework, here are the rules:
1) Work on your piece until you cannot possibly work on it anymore, then give yourself a rest, and return to it the next day.
2) Even if you put a space between two words, or take out a comma, it is still in (work) status. (Check) status is only confined to a stage where you found that, on a certain day, you could not implement any more change.
3) (Edited) status can be written only after a piece has endured the (check) status without finding areas to correct. It is common that even on (check) status, I will edit it two, three, even four times more.
4) Be relentless about the way you edit. Be brutal with your work. You want the best out of your work. No excuses.
Alright writers, this lesson is done. I hope this article made sense, and that my own editing of this article doesn't suck.
Cheers until next time.
Added on August 9, 2011
Last Updated on August 14, 2011