Waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear

Francesca Capaldi Burgess considers the dreaded editing, and those dratted ‘favourite’ words.

Editing is something I love and hate, much as Golem in Lord of the Rings loved and hated the ring. And like Golem, I will never be rid of my need for it.

The ‘love’ part comes from the knowledge that I have completed the first draft, ‘The End’ typed, in my mind if not in truth, on the last page. Then comes the reality – back to page 1. And I know this will be only one of many edits, whether it’s a short story or a novel. The more I edit it, the more I tend to hate it! Neither does the editing process finish with the submission of the work.Page editing

I’ve written before of how I’m an eternal editor. If my work comes winging its way back to me, I will be
sifting through it yet again. Even if it’s a short story I’ve already sold in a different country, I will make sure it’s the best I think it can be. And that’s quite aside from the fact that foreign markets might compel me to change certain aspect in any case.

So, I shrug, huff a sigh while a sense of foreboding floods my senses, eyeing the page hopefully, clearly ready to begin, obviously. Which brings me to one of the major editing events – eradicating favourite words. Not favourite in the sense that I like them, but because they are overused by me. The sentence before last contains many that I placed on a hit list recently after finishing the first draft of a novella. Sometimes I end up simply replacing one well-worn word with another equally shabby one. In which case, a complete re-write of that sentence, and perhaps the one before and after, is called for.

The ‘Word’ list of synonyms is some help, as is the internet, but I prefer my Collins Thesaurus. What a hunk of a book! It’s much better than Roget’s version, which I’ve always found cumbersome.

I am, however, eternally grateful for the ‘Find and Replace’ function. I can’t imagine how much more difficult sifting through hackneyed words must have been in the days of typewriters and pens/quills, though I have to admit a fondness for writing by hand. ‘F&R’ is also useful for changing single quotes to double, and vice versa, for the requirements of different publishers, though it’s still mind-numbingly tedious to do.

Below is the hit list I made for my most recent work. Some of them will probably have you going ‘eh?!’ How many of these are also your bugbears? Can you add to the list? Feel free to comment below and tell me of any of your own worn out words.

shrug                           admonish

sigh                              laugh

huff                              wildly

breath                         unspoken

smile                           tut

grin                              raise

senses                          head

lips                               eyeing

nod                              turn

wide-eyed                   vaguely

ripple                           life

obviously                     bright

clear                            expression

connection                  screwed (not what you’re thinking, you mucky pup!)

And if you’re wondering about the title of this blog, it’s because of this rather nice quote by author Patricia Fuller: 

Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”

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10 thoughts on “Waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear

  1. As I usually write in the first person I’m very guilty of: I am, I think, I wish, I know etc. You’d be amazed how many I take out when I’m editing. Word repetition is something you are totally unaware of until you read it back, sometimes not even then. I’m sure as writers we can all sympathise with you Francesca.
    Elaine Roberts

  2. Words should flow freely and feel right when we write them. Our characters don’t have perfect speech and will repeat words – even use wrong words. Write what feels right in your gut and leave everything else to the editors and proofreaders. As we say in class, ‘enhance our work and leave editing to the experts.’
    Elaine Everest xx

    • I agree to a large extent, Elaine, but I’ve read too many books (particularly e-books) where neither the writer nor the editor has taken proper care over editing. I think as writers we owe it to ourselves to make it the best we can. If, when I read my work back aloud to myself, it doesn’t sound right, or I can hear the repeated words, I have to change it. Speech is a different thing, of course, and characters will have their own quirks.
      Francesca

  3. I believe we should always submit the best work we can, dialogue is always a different issue. After all that’s why we encourage read and feed back on our work. There’s always the danger of over editing but we should certainly edit the obvious.
    Elaine Roberts

  4. Shakespeare had the right idea. If there wasn’t a word for what he wanted to say he invented it.Editing is important. Whereas dialogue should offer a credible reflection of character, linguistic flaws and all, I do think narration should be impeccable: ‘The best possible words in the best possible order’.

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