I was helping a fellow author recently by reading her manuscript and doing some reviewing/editing. I can see now why, when editors are asked what they like most about editing, they state helping a writer develop their story. In the process of helping this fellow author I have realised that editing is like gardening:
- You do a lot of weeding and pruning (getting rid of parts of the story that are superfluous, don’t work or are out of place);
- You mow the lawn keeping it nice and short (cutting down those overlong paragraphs or sentences to make nice shorter ones which are easier to manage);
- You add new plants (adding new words or punctuation to established areas to enhance them);
- You plant seeds that you can’t see at this stage (you realise you need to add seeds of thought earlier in the story to make it clear why something happens later);
- You replace plants with others (replacing words or punctuation for other ones that work better);
- You move plants to another area (moving sentences or paragraphs around to make it flow better);
- You take a close look at the red flower in the midst of the green and yellow bank of flowers and try to remember why you planted that there (remembering why you put a certain section in a certain place and making a decision to remove, replace or leave);
- And then you take a step back to see it in its entirety (ignoring the content you look at the presentation to see if the paragraphs are of varied length, they don’t all start with the same words, the font is consistent and so on).
Having done all that you sit back with a satisfied feeling of completion.