Home > Editing > Editing takes forever

Editing takes forever

  • Tweet
  • Sharebar
  • Tweet

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I would try and set some time aside to finally finish something. It didn’t go according to plan, but in trying to carry on in what little time I had, something really hit me – editing takes AGES!

I guess that comes as no real surprise, and I knew it already. But I had never felt it as acutely as I did on Sunday.

Half hour hiccup

Due to various things going wrong throughout the day, my juicy two hour window of editing had shrunk, shrunk and shrunk again down to half an hour. This upset me quite a bit. I was now down to the equivalent time I would have on a train journey home during the week.

Now, I can write in half an hour. In fact I find it difficult to concentrate on writing in longer spans than this, possibly because I have become so used to my train writing time. Editing though is a completely different barrel of eels.

Speeding train

This is the speed at which editing does not go! Image courtesy of Richard Taylor on Flickr


When edit, it means I do a lot of reading, then trying something, then more reading, then mulling it over, swapping some words around, adding a bit, taking it out again immediately… I’m in the work, but I’m pulling and tugging at it, working it into a shape I can be happy with.

It is as laborious as it sounds (if that sounded dynamic and exciting, I apologise – it was a dirty lie), and it requires concentration. If you’ll allow me the indulgence of metaphor, then writing is drifting off to sleep and editing is struggling to stay awake.

I therefore need some time to get to that level of concentration before I can get some serious work done. And I need space for my mind to play with the fragments. Diving in for shirt spells just isn’t cutting it!

wasting away

It has got to the point where I feel like even trying to edit in these short spells is a waste of time. I am conscious when i start that I will not get enough done to feel satisfied and that nagging sensation that I should be doing something else will begin to take over.

Worse, this bitesize editing might be counter productive. I can imagine a scenario when, having gone through my whole document in this way, I finally read it all through and realise I have a lot more work ahead of me. Much of my editing may be missing the point because I’m not giving the process the room it deserves.

So on Monday, after my failed editing attempt of the previous day, I opened my laptop on the train and thought, “I shouldn’t be doing this. I should be writing.”

The write environment for the write task

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m drawing a line right here. No more editing sessions on the train. It’s not right for me.

So, the plan is broadly similar to how it was in the first place, but slightly refined, and with a dedication to apply it to all future projects. Setting aside time to edit a project and get it finished stays. Editing in little bursts goes. From now on when I finish a draft, I set up some time to edit it later, but immediately start something new on my train journeys.

BOOM! Never knew I could be so decisive did ya?

Categories: Editing Tags: ,
  • Craig

    I entirely agree.  I have just spent two hours editing, and even then I haven’t made that much progress.

    If we abandon metaphors for a while, editing does take up a ton of time.  And it isn’t something you can do piecemeal.  Writing in short bursts, yes, thats agreeable, because you’re generating new material (shifting the sand, as it were) but like you say, a great deal of editing is reading, and that of course takes time.  While I’ve been working on this edit I’ve found myself hitting points where I think ‘this needs a major overhaul, I should come back to it later’, which is itself counter productive, because what if you come back to it and something changes which has an effect further down the line?  So this is it.  Unless you know resolutely what is going to happen, editing is very linear.  With the actual writing you can get away with skipping scenes here and there, to come back later, but not with editing.

    The other thing about editing is that sometimes it doesnt feel productive does it?  You can ‘edit’ for an hour and in that time could possibly make only a few changes, a word here or there or repositioning a sentence.  While with an hour of writing you can get what?  Maybe a few pages?  Which feels more productive?  So yes, editing in small chunks, not advisable.  Editing when you have a few hours (or a few days) spare, thumbs up.