Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't Edit Out Your Voice

I'm deep in the editing zone and lovin' it. Yes, I'm one of those crazy writers who would rather edit than write. Why? Because I get to play! I love coming up with new imagery, or using symbols in a particular passage, or adding just the right sentence that makes the whole scene work.

But I've also had to remind myself not to edit so much that I get rid of my unique voice. I blogged about this a few years ago and here's what I had to say:

You can over-analyze and try and spit-polish every.single.word until you edit the very life and breath right out of your story. Your voice fades into the background and your characters have been wrestled into doing what you think they need to do to make the story work instead of letting them decide their direction. But in the end, it doesn't work. At all.

Lesson learned. This time around, I'm not going to be so ruthless. I'm not going to edit my voice out of the story. I'm not going to agonize over every single word despite what some other writers might advise.

I tried it that way once, and in the end, I realized that my story wasn't mine anymore. I'd edited the heart out of it.

Solution? When the head (editor) gets too zealous, the heart must gently whisper in its ear. And the editor must listen and consider, then proceed to the best of its ability.

Only then will the true story be told.

Another lesson I've learned in this writing life: you have to constantly remind yourself of certain lessons learned in the past. Thank goodness for blog archives! ;-)


  1. I've found this as well. Sometimes you can over think a scene and rewrite it so many times that you can't remember what the purpose of the scene was in the first place.

  2. All I can say is ... AMEN.

  3. I love the editing phase too. The story is basically plotted out, and I can focus more on the writing itself, as a craft, in building the story.

    Enjoy :)

  4. For me, revising is the place to let the voice deepen. But to do that, you are have to write from your heart as well (if not more than) your head. Most readers will not be dazzled by the beauty of your sentences...but they will be swept away by the glory of the emotions on the page. That's the lesson I need to keep relearning!

  5. Very good advice Melissa!

  6. I couldn't agree more, Melissa. I love editing too, but I know it's all too easy to lose the spontaneity and the voice. A reader won't know or care if we've spent four hours worrying over one word. They will care if the story and the characters don't engage them.

    Good luck!

  7. Melissa, I love the bits of wisdom that I gain from your experience as a writer-this is excellent advice:)

    Hugs, my dear and I'll write more soon. I think I have developed painter's shoulder-and it hurts to move my right arm. Ouch!


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