Starting Afresh

It got worse

You may have heard of all the drama I went through with my last flat, starting with literal puddles on the floor from condensation (my fault, apparently, for breathing) and ending with the water pipe above my bed bursting and causing the mess you can see here (and it looked even worse by the end!). Fun times, eh?

After traipsing across half of London (my brother did most of that) we managed to find a shiny new flat sans condensation and burst pipes. Victory! I’d show you pictures of my new, non-destroyed room, but it is still an embarrassing mess of half-open boxes and naked walls.

I keep looking around and wondering when I accumulated so much stuff, and how to go about getting rid of all the things I never use: clothes that don’t fit, useless but pretty gadgets, old Christmas and birthday cards, not to mention a plethora of posters that have sat in an envelope for several years now. I’m a pack rat; I like collecting things. But it seems to me that a new place deserves a tabula rasa (or as much as I can make one, anyway). How to go about getting rid of the unnecessary?

Since I am entirely one-track-minded, this whole debacle got me thinking about writing, and more specifically, editing.

I write the way I acquire new things: impulsively, with a half-idea of where I want to go and a lot of willingness to splash out on an unexpected find. The end result is a thrown-together look that may work with my wardrobe, but is a little lacking when it comes to my writing. But how to streamline it all?

Ah, editing. Of course. But then the problem becomes figuring out what to get rid of, and what to keep. And when I get to that point, I do exactly what I have just done: I pack up and move house.

I open a new word document, I change the font from Times New Roman to Garamond, and, bit by bit, I move sentences over, sometimes one word at a time, sometimes in great lumps. From the first document to the second, all those spare words that I cannot be bothered to retype get dropped, and all those awkwardly shaped sentences get ironed out.

Yes, some of the bad stuff creeps through — I am a packrat, after all. But eventually, if my story moves houses enough times, I can be sure a good amount of the crap is lost.

How do you edit?

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17 thoughts on “Starting Afresh

  1. That is a brilliant way to look at it! I’ll add to it by saying this: when I edit, I have a new doc open with the page size set to 8×5 or 6×9 (margins etc set up perfectly) and then I paste the content in. My goal is to have each chapter fit within a certain number of pages, like 5 or 6. Then I force myself to cut until it VISUALLY flows the way I want it. An extra line? Nixed.

    It’s like moving from a big apartment into a smaller one. Sometimes you have to cut the things you don’t want to cut, only because it’ll help you squeeze into the new space.

    Yay! Happy thoughts for a Tuesday morning!

      • The length is entirely based on what looks nice. I try and make sure I have the first page starting on the right, then at least two facing pages of text (preferably 4) and then half a page at the end. That way, the next chapter starts immediately, without a blank page in between. Purely visual. There’s no logic to it. Whatever feels right.

        Aaaaaand I do this because I’m insane. And because working in the industries I have, I have this natural tendency to want to adapt content to fit the form, not the other way around. That whole theory of “write whatever comes naturally, and forget about formatting”? Not for me :)

      • Or, put into better focus: for Scarlet Lemming, I have a Pages doc open with the formatting all set up, and I know I’m done when the text has filled 5.5 pages. Anything shorter and it means I have to work harder :)

  2. Wow! What a mess at your old place! Glad you’re in a nice spiffy place with no condensation issues. :)

    Editing is something I sometimes do as I write but, generally, when the work is completed I go back through and just start deleting and reshaping.

    Nice post!

  3. Before my inner editor got the best of me, I would print out things, take my red pen and have a field day. By the end of it all, there was more red on the paper than there was black and white.

    Now I need to learn how to stop editing, because it drives me crazy trying to get it to work.

    • I still do that! I can’t edit any other way. Even when I edit things for other people I have to print them out and attack with my red pen — was a lot less fun when I edited an 80k novel ^^;;

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