What is editing?


If a sentence is tortured or feels difficult, can the words be saved? I have started to read my proposed book from scratch. It will also be read by a good editor. A professional with words, which I am not. I write the words as they come without dominating them. They need the freedom and ought to be respected. The hope is that the one who uses the words will be equally respectful to the words. It really is a game of give and take. A kind of dance. Take your partner now and dance, but don’t step on those swirling but dainty feet.

Even in the first few hundred words of the proposed book, I had to delete a number of letters and words. I could not really change them and if there is a twisting or torture I rather delete than re-write. It might well mean there will be less words in the final book. No words written  by me ought to feel tortured or warped. There is no law about how to form a good sentence. I know there are rules of grammar, syntax and so much else, but even if all those rules are adhered to obediently, will you end up dancing with the words? Sometimes rules stifle and restrict. I mean, have you read the latest BHP annual report? Did you ever enjoy reading the small lettering of your bread-maker machine guarantee certificate? All were written by experts of language with great syntax. Subject, verb and object superbly in the right place.

The lack of language skills does offer the opportunity to not be held back by those rules. It means, that the game of give and take between the words and writer can really flourish, not having to be held to ransom and held back by those same rules and conventions that are so necessary to produce those well written and totally comprehensible BHP or Rio Tinto annual reports and vacuum machine guarantee certificates.

Not having the advantage of conventional education can have dire consequences too, but,  at the same time it leaves avenues open of a different way of doing things. It all depends on the individual to then make the best of the given. That’s how it is in most things. You just row with the oars that you were given. Rowing up shit creek without a paddle, is one of my favourite sayings. Who wrote that one? The freedom to row with the words is all that we have. Could the rules and regulations  stifle this freedom?  It is all so puzzling isn’t it?

I sometimes used to regret not having gone through a university type of education. You know, having a bachelor of arts degree or something similar. It would have given one the opportunity in becoming an engineer or crash-hot dentist. It could have been my lot, or an actuary, bank manager on a leather black swivel chair. Just imagine?

I could have written Annual reports or Budget papers.

I will spend time going through the whole proposed book again. Re-put words a bit here and there. It is naval gazing and somehow an embarrassing procedure, going over what has been written. Of course, the rules of grammar have to be obeyed to a certain degree. Anything still obviously askew will have to be picked up by the editor.

I am now at;

“The on-shore stevedoring workers were dressed in blue singlets and shorts. They could well have thought, while looking up and rolling their ready rub ciggie; ‘here comes another bloody boatload of bloody reffos.’ Definition of ‘Reffo’ ‘a refugee.’ Strictly speaking we were not refugees, but we were all painted with the same brush. European history was complicated and Australians at that time kept things fairly simple. At least we were white.”


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21 Responses to “What is editing?”

  1. Carrie Rubin Says:

    I think it all comes down to readability. If it’s easy to read and the sentences don’t trip the reader up, then the rules don’t matter so much. I’ve always found your blog posts to be easily readable. It seems you’re a natural at that.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. roughseasinthemed Says:

    Onshore is one word, ready-rub ciggie is hyphenated.

    I’ve written annual reports and budget papers.

    It isn’t that easy believe me.

    Send me a few chapters and I’ll give you a view.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Ok, and thank you. I have filled in your editing request on your blog. I could not find a contact e-mail.
      There are lots of issues with using Office Word, including hyphonating.
      You are the expert, I am not.


  3. rodhart (@roderick_hart) Says:

    I noticed the odd thing from time to time but they didn’t bother me much. But one thing I wouldn’t do is simply delete. Rewriting passages that you aren’t happy with could have a good effect on your writing. I would regard it as an opportunity to learn through experience. I find I rewrite constantly. But this may not suit you. We’re all different.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. elizabeth2560 Says:

    I have read that one should leave a book aside for three months, then take three months to self-edit (looking at it with a fresh eye) before sending to a professional editor. New writers tend to skip these two important time-consuming steps. They are impatient and just want it finished. Well done you, for recognizing these steps!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. gerard oosterman Says:

    That’s good advice, Elizableth. Most of this book has been written over the last eight years when I started doing it. However, I haven’t really re-read most of it till I thought of publishing it in a firm book format. Words evoke feelings but that depends evry much on the willingnesss and order of the words, as well as the feelings of the one putting the words down.


  6. shoreacres Says:

    What is editing? My first thought was that it’s hard work, that takes time. I’ve not yet done a book, but I’ve written poems and essays, and I’m always asking these questions: what do I want to communicate? Which words are helping me do that? Which are standing in the way?

    Sometimes, I think this might be an ok definition: editing is verbal decluttering. 🙂


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, it is tricky and Helvi is very good and utterly honest when looking at what I have written. She understands language so much better. She studied languages and worked as a high-school teacher in Finland.
      I like verbal decluttering.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mary Cathleen Clark Says:

    Gerard, there is a program I use called “Grammarly”. It’s an add-on to Word. You can find it doing a web search, and it offers a free or paid version. It’s proven to be very helpful to me–though, being a creative writer, I don’t always take its suggestions.
    To me, a good novel speaks in the author’s voice. Grammar and punctuation can be learned (or relearned) but your own distinct style of how you form your sentences comes from inside you. It can’t be taught.
    On editing . . . I find it far easier and less stressful that writing the first draft. Some things get taken out, new material gets added, scenes and sentences get tweaked. There have been times it was difficult for me to restructure a sentence to make it flow better, but I kept fooling with it until it suited me. I didn’t toss it out because what it conveyed needed to be included.
    On hiring an editor . . . like I read and agree with in a comment above, put your novel together the best you can, let it rest –don’t even peek at it–for a least a month, then have a go at it again.I would not hire an editor until you think you have your manuscript the best you can make it. Then, most definitely, have a professional editor have a go at it.
    And guess what? They will have you edit again. lol
    Unless you intend to hire a ghost writer, you are still looking at a lot of work before you get to the finish line.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes, of course a professional editor. I found the writing easy, not really caring too much about structure or grammar. It just had to feel good. I now am re-reading and re-reading which I find somewhat daunting.
    I tried your free sample of ‘grammarly’ but apart from spelling mistakes, it picked up cases of plagiarism in a very short sample, which I found strange. Of course I used words that are also used by others, but never a sentence or a copy of somebody else’s writing..
    I will just keep going and remain keen on all your suggestions.


  9. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    Umm, in my view, it is worth knowing the rules before choosing to ditch them, but a good editor will hopefully sort out any infelicitous literary malfeasances.


  10. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Yes it will be a job to read what has already been written but you have an editor so that should not be too difficult. Good luck and persevere.


  11. Curt Mekemson Says:

    And then there are content editors and copy editors. Not to mention rewrites of rewrites of rewrites. There are sentences I may rework a dozen times before I am happy with them, Gerard. Others that just flow out finished. What a life we lead… –Curt


  12. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I have always enjoyed your blog posts Gerard. I remember when I first found you, you said you just put one word in front of another. Well, look how far it has taken you. On the brink of fame and maybe even fortune.


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