The mark of a good writer is being able to edit herself.
A much wiser friend shared that when I started at CHOW and it has stuck with me since. Those words shifted my perspective. Up to that point, I focused on what I was writing, but I’ve realized what’s even more important is what I don’t write.
I’ve never been one of few words – as a child, I’d write mile-long sentences like they were going out of style – so thinking of what to say has never been my problem. But figuring out how best to say it? That I’m still grasping.
On top of which I’ve never attempted a project of the scale of this cookbook. I’ve written articles of a few hundred words but this cookbook is a great deal larger – spanning just under a thousand pages. I’m tempted to do a jackrabbit sprint through my editor’s red markups but I’d likely stumble before the finish. Instead, I’ve broken it down into manageable steps, taking it one line at a time, and am channeling my inner tortoise.
This process is daunting and the biggest challenge has been learning to edit myself. At last month’s IACP conference I attended a Craft of Writing session that armed me with key tactics. The most relevant tidbit was from Joe Yonan who talked about editing your work as if it were someone else’s. He’s gone as far as changing the byline and walking away from an article only to return and edit it ruthlessly. After all the work that’s gone into the manuscript, I don’t have the heart to change the author’s name, yet I’m trying to limit my emotional attachment and maintain a critical eye.
But, in the end, my edits are just one part of the process. And although I may stumble at times, the talented editors, designers, and others at Chronicle are helping me to slowly but surely make my way to the finish line.