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November 18, 2013 / Angela Sylvia

Moments in Editing: How Do I Quantify This?

There are a lot of horrible things about writing a first draft, like the often, and terrifying, notion that you have no idea where you’re going with this. But there are a lot of nice things too, and one of those is that it’s easy to quantify. When your significant other asks you, what did you do today, you can say, I wrote five pages. No matter if you will only be keeping one and a half of those pages, you still actually wrote five of them. That’s a number. People can visualize that.

That gets harder when your editing. You can say, at the end of the day, I edited five pages, but what does that mean? You rewrote five pages? You fixed the grammar on five pages? You tweaked the dialogue on five pages? And how much work was that really? Maybe only one paragraph was really messed up, and you spend an hour on that alone. Everything else was fine, just fixing typos. Or maybe the dialogue was dead for the entire chapter and you had to spend all day altering that. So measuring pages doesn’t work. You can maybe measure time, but how much of that is editing? You’re reading, thinking, staring out the window, watching YouTube intermitently, so you can’t call any of that work….or can you? Sometimes it counts, you’re working out the story, the plot, what the character is really saying in this scene, or your gathering inspiration from the outside world. Or, your procrastinating, marathoning* videos and wondering why, why why your neighbor hasn’t gotten better at the flute yet. When all you have to do is edit, who can say how much work you really did? You certainly can’t. Or can you? (You can’t.)

So when your significant other comes home and asks, what did you do today? you say: I wrote. And that’s all you need to say, because honestly, any other details would only make them crazy.

*Spell check says “marathoning” is not a real word. This has been a part of my vocabulary since high school, and so I reject this entirely.

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