Editing

by Lou on October 2, 2005

People sometimes ask me what I like least and most about writing. It sounds strange, but it’s the same thing: editing.

I’m now sitting with a 293 page manuscript in front of me. It’s my latest book, which will be out later this year or early next year, entitled Secrets the Pros Won’t Tell You About Winning Hold’em Poker, which Sheree Bykofsky and I are writing. It’s in dire need of editing. Editing is really stressful for me. There’s always so much to review and never enough time to polish it the way you’d like to. And when it’s not polished to perfection, mistakes creep in.

Regardless of whether it’s for a small publisher like ConJelCo or a major publisher like John Wiley or Barron’s — and major publishers have their own teams of copy editors too, compulsive, anal-retentive English majors who, for the most part, can spot an error in syntax or punctuation at 100 yards — that on the day the book hits the stores someone will email me describing a typo or error they caught. I can live with small typos. What really bugs me is to pick up a book six or eight months after I’ve written it, read a section, and wonder to myself how in the world I wrote it that way, when this way would be so much better.

One of the biographies about William Butler Yeats describes him working one entire summer editing a single poem. One poem? All summer long? That really floored me. After all, Yeats was a prolific writer. Between his poetry, short stories, criticism, essays, and plays his output was enormous, so for him to agonize over one poem for three months seemed almost incredulous to me. It also taught me that editing is one of the things that turns adequate writing into very good, or even great writing, and I suppose the more time one has to dig into first, second, or third drafts, the better the product figures to be when it finally hits the presses.

But this is a poker book, an instructional, and it doesn’t really require the degree of crafting that Yeats was after. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Novelists, poets, and playwrights often do. Poker authors, or folks who write instructional non-fiction books of any kind, never dream of literary honors of even the most routine sort, never mind becoming a Nobel laureate. But I still want everything I write to read well, to be easy and clear for anyone picking it up to make sense of it, and ever since I began writing, I loved the opportunity to edit my way to clarity, and to edit in order to make my writing come alive for readers.

But the sad reality is that I’ve never picked up anything I’ve written and thought, “That’s it. That’s perfection.” I always see ways it could have been better. Unfortunately, I always see them too late.

That’s what I’m up to for the next few days. I haven’t even ventured outside except to go to the mailbox or have a cup of coffee on my patio. I’m sequestered in this corner room right next to the garage, and there I’ll stay until I complete this task. No poker for me, and on a weekend full of great football matchups, I won’t see a single game. I didn’t see USC come back to beat Arizona State yesterday, and I won’t see any NFL games today either. I won’t see the baseball wildcard races play out, and I didn’t see Antonio Tarver beat Roy Jones, Jr. last night either.

Nope. None of that. I’m locked in this editing room grinding through page after page. I’m about half way through it now. See you in another 150 pages.

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