July 8, 2011

Editing is like exercise, but not in the way you might think

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 12:06 am
Tags: , ,

My twitter feed has been filled with proverbs lately, and today one of the writers on my feed told me this:

“Editing is like exercise – you hate every minute of it, but without it, your writing gets overweight” -

Does this ring true for you?

I’m not an expert, but if I hated every minute of exercising, there’s no way I could keep it up. And if I hated editing, there’s no way I’d do that either.

When I grew up, everybody told me that exercise is good for you. Underlying that sentence was the feeling that stuff that was good for you by default was uncomfortable and dull. And the exercise I was forced to do pushed that point home (football, football, football and a bit of aerobics). By the time I turned fourteen, I no longer exercised at all.

When I started University, the collective guilt-trip of parents and doctors convinced me to get back on the exercise wagon. I dutifully signed up for a gym and went twice. Then I signed up for yoga and went once. It wasn’t working.

But then I met a guy who enjoyed exercise. He didn’t work out to stay in shape or look good, he worked out because it was fun. I had to try it. Three years later I get cranky if I don’t work out at least three times a week. What’s my secret? Doing the fun stuff. Different people like different stuff. I enjoy crossfit, powerlifting and body weight training. Maybe you’re one of those people who love running. I won’t judge. The important point is that if you’re doing it right, exercise is not an activity you “hate every minute of”, it’s fun.

Life is about enjoying yourself. If you can’t enjoy honing your writing, cutting your scenes up and gluing them back together, scrapping useless paragraphs and tightening sentences, then maybe you’re doing it wrong. Maybe you need to take a step back and figure out how to make the editing process interesting. And maybe you need to stop viewing it as a necessary evil, and start viewing it as polishing your work.



  1. I love this entry. Love it, love it, love it. Similarly, although certain aspects of writing strike me as tedious when I’m considering them, I almost always sit down and find myself beaming. “Hey, this is really fun!” Of course it is. If I didn’t think so, on and off again at least, I wouldn’t do so stinkin’ much of it! 😉

    I feel this way about running, too. I haven’t run for a while because of my heel, but I’m going to start running again soon. Do you suppose I’ll do it because I have to? No, although I do feel much better about life when I’m getting a regular influx of those endorphins.

    I do it because it gives me a few moments of zen. I savor the thought of being disconnected from my obligations and electronics and instead being connected to the world, which I get a chance to see from a different angle than when I’m cruising through it in my car.

    Comment by Deborah the Closet Monster — July 8, 2011 @ 8:32 am | Reply

    • Exactly! It might be my past as an academic that has me hooked on the editing process (or my healthy obsession with cutting unnecessary words), but I like making my chapters shine. And I think other people do too.

      I’ve tried running. In fact, I get in a jog every week, but I’m not at the endorphin stage yet, and so I end up having to push myself constantly. My head pounds in tune with my feet on the pavement: “We could be walking. We could be walking.” It’s exhausting. I’ve become a social runner though. As long as there’s someone there with me, I have enough entertainment to keep me going mile after mile.

      Comment by nascentnovelist — July 8, 2011 @ 8:41 am | Reply

  2. Good post – but I wonder if you’ve ever been professionally edited. I used to love editing – self editing, that is. But being edited by a professional publishing house changed my perspective. One can love stories as I do and not be crazy about editing – although, like I appreciate exercise, I also appreciate editing and it’s usefulness.

    Oh, and next time you quote one of my tweets, at least have a link to my twitter account. 😉

    Comment by Brayden Hirsch — July 8, 2011 @ 12:29 pm | Reply

    • I’ve been professionally edited, but mostly in non-fiction. In my experience, critique cuts harder in fiction than non-fiction. On the other hand, people are meaner in academia than in literary circles, so it might be just as bad.

      I’ve also been edited through writing groups and had professional writers seen my work and given me input. Still loving the editing and even if I have to go through the different stages of denial (how can you say that scene doesn’t work? it’s beautiful and unique…well, maybe it could use only one POV throughout…well, maybe you’re right about that phrase too…Oh, shit, let’s just rewrite it), I still think my writing gets better from it. But I won’t judge your dislike of it. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

      I’ll totally link to you. I wasn’t sure you wanted to be quoted by name, and figured it’d be less in-your-face to just write about it and send you the post. Editing as we speak. 😉

      Comment by nascentnovelist — July 8, 2011 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Martin, I read your comment on Rachelle Gardner’s blog and came to say hello to a fellow Canadian writer. Good luck with your queries. Best wishes from Toronto.

    Comment by Giora — July 8, 2011 @ 4:41 pm | Reply

    • Hi! Thank you! And nice to “meet” a fellow Canadian. 🙂


      Comment by nascentnovelist — July 8, 2011 @ 6:17 pm | Reply

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