Editing the Past

So hopefully this isn’t too big of a spoiler, but I’m currently working on editing my next book.

It’s another collection of humor columns, picking up where I left off with the last one, and with any luck it should be coming out sometime before Christmas, but specifically today I wanted to take just a moment to write about the editing process and some of the conflicts that I find myself facing as I comb back over columns that were written anywhere between two and four years ago…

To be honest, I try to keep it more along the lines of proofreading than actual editing – I mean, I don’t mind making minor spelling and punctuation corrections, but I like to avoid actually re-writing lines if at all possible because I don’t think it’s really fair to the original columns if I come back and make major changes to them years after the fact.  Not to mention I’d never actually get anything done if I tried to operate that way because as pretty much any creative person evolves over time, I’ve just got different methods of writing than I did back in 2007 and frankly, I’d drive myself absolutely nuts if I insisted on going back and “tweaking” each of the 54 humor columns that will be in this book based on how I write today.

Fortunately, at least this one isn’t nearly as bad as my first book that I put out last year – that one encompassed columns ranging all the way back to 2001 – 2007, so at the time I was assembling the book some of the oldest content was literally written nearly a decade prior … and not for nothing, but I’ve done a lot of growing since I was 21 years old!!!  Senses of humor and delivery of sarcasm change, use of adult words (at least in the context of my column) has changed, and that’s all on top of the technical aspects about writing that one builds upon through writing professionally for a full decade!  Needless to say, I definitely came across more than a couple of cringe-worthy incident when putting together that one, but luckily with book #2, the worst have just been a handful of proofreading errors where I caught myself saying something like, “Seriously?!  How did you publish a column about cats and accidentally refer to them as cars in the fourth paragraph?!?!?!”

I guess it kind of makes me glad that I don’t write fiction (yet, anyways) because just about every fiction writer I know seems to spend more time pouring over editing and revisions than they did actually writing the thing in the first place!  It’s a little different with a weekly column because I’ve constantly got to be looking towards next week’s adventure, so you just don’t have time to dwell on the past and keep tweaking it until it’s absolutely perfect.  Instead, my output each week becomes a little snapshot of where my sense of humor and writing skills and life in general were at that particular point in time, and ultimately I think that can still be kind of cool in its own right, too, despite also producing some shrugs and awkward questions about what passed for humor back then 10 years down the road!

Just as long as the crap I’m writing these days is spelled and punctuated correctly so I don’t have to spend this much time proofreading when it comes time to do the big 50-year anthology, though…  😆

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