Wednesday, October 05, 2011

it’s the edits that kill me. any helpful hints?

I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to get my head into edits of written material in preparation for publication. Here’s how I currently experience the writing process

  • Speak – I use conferences and keynotes to present my research. I have an aural learning preference, so speaking stuff verbally helps me process my thinking. Plus I get interaction with the wider academic community. There’s a deadline and it’s a buzz.
  • Write – Then I write the work up. Conferences tend to only want 20 to 35 minutes, ie never the full paper. Further, someone reading a written paper is hard to listen to. So having spoken, I then take the time to lengthen and strengthen, often building in the spoken feedback. It’s hard to find the time, but it feels creative.
  • Contract – The written piece then goes into that black hole, in which publishers do their work. What every writer thinks is their world changing work gets weighed in regard to viability. Markets can scanned, trends get considered. What you though important, unique, fresh, your work is tested. If unsuccessful, then you look for another source. When successful, you get an email, often with a contract form to sign.  You then proceed into the stage that is currently killing me.
  • Edits – At some point, your written work comes back. Changes are suggested. Alterations are asked for. This can be up to 2 years after your initial submission. Generally the request is unannounced and suddenly arrives. Generally all have short deadlines.  And the accompanying note that this is a final step before publication.

I’m not complaining. But I’m not finding it easy. My Myers Briggs personality type is strongly Perceiving, not Judging. In other words, deadlines and precision don’t energise me. So a final edit in which every word in a 6,000 word chapter will be committed to a printed page is scarey.  My Belbin profile includes being a plant ie I’m really good at starting things and initating change.

I’m also finding that the editing involves getting my head back into stuff I’ve left well behind. In the last month I’ve found myself editing a piece from December 2010, a piece from February 2011, a piece from April 2011 and a piece from July 2009. And the 2009 piece was a coupling together of some written work from 2003, mixed with some ongoing reading. It all means I’ve got to get my head back into stuff that is long gone.

I know in my head that the editing need not take long. Often I’m surprised by how little time it takes. But you  don’t know that until you start. And in the midst of everything else I juggle, it’s hard to craft that time. I don’t find it a creative process, so an early morning does not beckon. Work is busy, so there’s not often uninterrupted space.

In my head, my perfectionist tendencies fight with the 80/20 rule; the desire to be very careful vs the knowledge that I’ve done most of the important work, so how much does this matter. Yet, I hate finding a mistake in a book, and I don’t want to be shoddy.

So it’s the edit phase in the writing process that are currently killing me. I want to start some new projects, but I need to complete what I’ve started. I’m not complaining, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to publish. But I write this wondering if I’m alone and if any readers have any helpful hints on how they negotiate the editing phase, especially when one has multiple projects on the go and at different phrases and in the midst of everyday life?

Posted by steve at 03:39 PM

1 Comment

  1. Not really 🙁 though I find it helps to “knock off” one piece at a time, with minimal or no work on the others. Though if it’s taking too long I break that rule and have a “holiday” with some other task, before returning to finish the prioritied editing. (I’m a kinesthetic learner, so not apt at sitting still, and INFP so not good at deadlines, but I have learned the satisfactions of being able to think: “Thank God! I’ve got rid of that project, at last ;)” I then find I’m often energised for the next one…

    Comment by Tim Bulkeley — October 7, 2011 @ 6:48 am

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