The Prose that Defies Editing

The Prose that Defies EditingFor me, the hardest part of writing fiction is fixing the prose that defies editing.

In my head, my prose powers forward with the energy of Hemmingway and the tight, sparse economy of George Orwell. It has the lyrical description of Hardy, the sparking dialog of Chandler, and the tight plotting of Agatha Christie.

Then I read it back and find a cesspool of garbage. Incomplete, incoherent sentences. Hanging clauses. Adverbs obscenely dangling ‘ly’ endings all over the place. Imagery that doesn’t fit. Physical actions that make the characters seem like clumsy, twitchy, nervous five year olds with itching powder in their pants.

The dialog reads like two people in locked soundproofed rooms. On different continents.

No emotion; no interiority; no connection.

It’s worse than a GCSE English mock paper, written by a bonobo with a banana.

There are zero drafts, dirty drafts and the nasty detritus you pull out of a blocked drain.


It leaves two choices. Patch it up, or start over.

But life is too short and getting shorter. And where’s the guarantee that a clean draft will be any better?

So you patch it up. Or try.

And on the next pass, the improvements fail to improve and it still doesn’t make sense.

Where’s the craft? Where’s the laser-like focus? The core message? The humanity? The clarity?

It’s hard work.

And yet, you keep going.

Put it through a writing tool like ProWritingAid and it gets worse.

Your punctuation is terrible, your grammar appalling and your word choices amateurish.

Which leaves you with doubt.

You can’t write. You can’t edit. And who wants to read this tosh when its finished?

And yet, you keep going.

Who Needs it?

Another writing seminar asks the question: why does the world need this book? It doesn’t. Nobody needs this book. It’s just a story told by an idiot strutting and fretting his life across a stage. Straight into the open trap door.

There’s the rub; nobody needs this book.

It’s just vanity; an ego with a keyboard imagining that anybody wants to read this stuff. Nine billion people on the planet and no compelling reason for any of them to pick up this book. After three years’ work.

What are you gonna do?

Blinkers on. Focus. Power on. The screen lights up.

There it is. The prose that defies editing.

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