Ruth Sternglantz on editing your own work

This may make me an oddity, but I like editing my own work. I might even like it a bit more than the initial first draft process. For me, getting something down on paper (or more likely these days, on screen) can be a challenge. I’m a slow writer, and I’m okay with that—I’m not going to berate myself for not being able to keep up a faster pace. Once it’s finally done, I can close the file and let it sit for a little while. It’s when I go back and open it up again that, for me, the real work begins.

Ruth Sternglantz, an editor at Bold Strokes Books, has a great metaphor for dealing with your work, especially if you find you’re the sort of writer who has a hard time revising their own writing. It’s a metaphor that she takes from a novel by Radclyffe: look into the wound. It’s all about a way of seeing your work, finding the things that do work, that aren’t damaged and don’t need to be changed, and let them drive your revision.

Read the whole story over at the Bold Strokes Books Authors’ Blog.

In the comments over there, Ruth mentions a remark by Andrew Holleran, about how writers and teachers will often talk about “vomiting out” that first draft. Let’s hope your first draft doesn’t look like barf! There’s nothing like having to clean up a pile of sick; why would you want to do that with a manuscript? That being said, a first draft is messy and imperfect. After recalling a ceramics class I took in college, I liken the first draft to making pottery. You’ve got to get the clay on the wheel before you can start to pull up the shape of the vase, or pot, or jar, or whatever it is you’re making. You’ve got to get enough clay on and you’ve got to get it in the center, which is harder than it sounds. But if the clay’s not on there, you’re just spinning your wheel. (Ha! See what I did there?)

What’s your process? How many times do you revise a work? I find I don’t have a set number, but three seems to be the minimum number of drafts a book goes through for me.