I have officially gone over some kind of editing sanity cliff. Today I found myself reading a passage by Vladimir Nabokov and mentally “fixing” it. Really.
Back in the day, when I worked for a startup with a lot of programmers, one of them said to me that a programmer’s productivity shouldn’t be measured by the number of lines of code he writes in a day, but by the number of lines of code he deletes in a day. This has stuck with me, and I am a staunch proponent of it in counting authorly output. Couldn’t write a thousand new words today? How about finding a thousand words to cut?
While editing Promises to Keep I made up my own editing Kill List. These are things I search and destroy. No, I don’t get rid of every instance of them, but most of the time they are unnecessary. I cut almost a thousand words from Promises to Keep using this Kill List.
After that, I do three auto-replace searches:
(double space) –> (single space)
(tab + space) –> (tab)
—“ –> —”
Finally, I search for my Achilles Heels, and where appropriate,
as –> while, when
and –> while, to
(double dash) –> (comma, colon, or full stop)
And yes, quite a few of these changes require that I fix associated verb tenses, so it’s a fiddly and headache-inducing process. It is so, so worth it, though.