Start writing fiction: characters and stories
Start writing fiction: characters and stories

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Start writing fiction: characters and stories

3.2.1 Editing is your friend

Figure 4

So, what counts as editing and when should you do it?

It’s important to balance ‘editing’ against ‘self-censorship’. To write in perfect freedom – to express yourself without self-censorship – is one of the most important aspects of writing fiction. Your aim is to tell a story as you think it should be told, to the best of your ability. Editing, once that piece of work is done, is simply a way of clarifying that intention, of saying more clearly what you mean to say.

For example, you write what you think, at first, is a wonderful opening paragraph. You are very proud of it, understandably so: it is a fine piece of writing. But by the time you’ve finished the piece, something doesn’t ‘ring true’ about those opening lines. ‘But they’re so good!’ You can’t bear to part with them. Ask:

  • Do they belong in that story, for sure?
  • Are they really what you meant to say, or do you just like the way they sound?

Be ruthlessly self-critical and scrupulously honest at moments such as this. You will develop the ability to say what you mean (and not just like what you say: ‘showy’ writing is much easier to achieve than good writing).

Remember, editing is your friend! An average piece of writing can become a good piece, with good editing.

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