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Monday, May 26, 2008

Why it takes (me) years to finish something

Last week I received a very enthusiastic evaluation of the manuscript for Post from my publisher. The deal was, it was suggested there be another line edit. Whether or not I'd be the one to do the edit was up to me. Given the option of spending a certain percentage of my free time to do it or possibly spend hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars to let someone else do it, I went with the former. I've had a handful of different people (people that I trust and who give honest feedback without being jerks) look at the book over the last year or so. I figured I had all the tools I needed to do this myself. Besides, isn't this a book about doing it yourself?

The frustrating thing about editing is learning new stuff while unlearning old stuff at the same time. In my case, a journalism instructor in college told me that lists in a sentence do not have a comma before the "and." (e.g. "NOFX, Lagwagon and Rocket from the Crypt.") Well, seeing a comma before the "and" in a number of books made me wonder. When I received my evaluation stating that I needed another comma in hundreds of sentences, I knew I had to make the change.

The crazy, endless thing about editing is that nothing ever seems to end. As Peter Jackson once put it, you're never really finished with something -- you just have a deadline of when to turn something in. You can tinker with something for your entire life, but if you've promised people a finished product, that tinkering has to stop sometime (just don't talk to George Lucas or Axl Rose about this).

I remember hearing Doug Pray say on the Hype! commentary that it took a year to edit his film. I thought that was an enormously long time to do, but I can't argue with how well that movie cuts together. Now I have a better understanding of where he's coming from.

Believe me, I wanted to be finished with this book four years ago, but as I've said before, I can't argue with something that really holds up and works. I highly doubt I would have had that four years ago.

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