Over on Twitter, I saw this insightful observation:
She is not wrong. There’s a lot of writing advice that focuses on, “shut off the inner critic, just write, you can fix it in editing” and a lot less advice on editing. I think about editing pretty consciously both because I work on my own stories, and because I’m in a critique group (I’ve been in this group for over twenty years) and so I think a lot about story structure and what my colleagues are trying to do with their stories so I can help them do it better.
I responded with a Twitter thread, but my friend Magenta nagged me to turn it into a proper blog post, so okay. Here’s an essay with my insights on how to edit your story, now that you’ve followed Anne Lamott’s classic advice and written a shitty first draft, which you are now trying to fix.
(I know basically nothing about editing magazines or books. I have never worked as an editor professionally. This isn’t about that sort of editing; this is about taking a draft, something that’s truly not ready for the light of day, and turning it into something you’re sufficiently pleased with to show other people.)