Swizec Teller - a geek with a hatswizec.com

    Write sitting down, edit standing up

    On March 26th I giddily said it takes about two months to write a technical book. Still high from the recent success it seemed like the thing to do.

    Hemingway writing

    It is now May 9th. I am editing.

    Well, sort of. I had thought my writing was awesome, that there will be hardly any editing needed and on 9th of April, just two weeks later, there was a reality check in my inbox.

    It was the editor: "Hey this is really great, solid writing, I just fixed some spelling and markup for ya."

    And truly, all the fixes were either typos or British English - they want American. Something about markets.

    "Oh and shorten the book by 60 pages. We said 100, you wrote 180, we can do 120 tops."


    It is now May 9th. I am editing.

    The stickler is that my beta readers said they'd like even more content in the book, definitely not less. Obviously I can't cut any content out of the book and I can't make the code examples shorter either. People have already complained the examples are a bit terse and hard to understand at moments.

    I could take out some screenshots, but this is a book about creating shiny visualisations for the internet. Screenshots must stay.

    Only thing left is the writing. I have to go through the whole book and use less words to say more.


    Facing such a monumental task it is therefore not a surprise I've only spent about 30 hours editing my book in the last month. That's averaging just an hour per day - the average for writing was two and a half.

    And editing time isn't even half as efficient as writing time. For every two minutes of staring bleary eyed at the screen, dragging the words through my mind like so much barbed wire, I spend five minutes prancing about on the internet feeling like I'm riding a unicorn in comparison.

    Editing really is sheer drudgery. There is no flow. There is no inspiration. Just a constant ruthless cutting and rewording. All those little things you thought added a special flair to the writing, let your personality shine through, entertained the reader.

    Waste. Plain old waste. Vomit of a writer who's been staring at the screen too long.

    It all has to go.

    And the writing is much better for it. But you're still sad to see it all go.

    Actually, not so much sad, as indifferent. You don't feel anything but the monotonous drudgery of rewriting something you've already written and not coming up with anything new. You can't, add something new and the word count goes up not down. Can't have that!

    It's been fairly successful too. I've finished the first two chapters. One cut down from 14 to 9 pages, the other from 51 to 40. Just by improving the writing. No loss of content.

    But it's just so ... it's terrible.

    This weekend I discovered a trick, though. I was at a friend's place and as I was editing in the kitchen I realized that the chairs are terrible and the table is the wrong height.

    Peeved, I moved to the counter. Editing standing next to the kitchen counter, shoulders slouched to stare at the screen ...

    ... before I knew it, two hours had passed and I edited five pages of text. Amazing! I had fallen into flow. Editing! Flow!

    I don't actually know if this was because of my friend's kitchen or because I was standing while writing. But I'm going to repeat the experiment today.

    Fingers crossed it works!

    Enhanced by Zemanta

    Did you enjoy this article?

    Published on May 9th, 2013 in editing, Word count, Writing, Writing

    Learned something new?
    Want to become an expert?

    Here's how it works ๐Ÿ‘‡

    Leave your email and I'll send you thoughtfully written emails every week about React, JavaScript, and your career. Lessons learned over 20 years in the industry working with companies ranging from tiny startups to Fortune5 behemoths.

    Join Swizec's Newsletter

    And get thoughtful letters ๐Ÿ’Œ on mindsets, tactics, and technical skills for your career. Real lessons from building production software. No bullshit.

    "Man, love your simple writing! Yours is the only newsletter I open and only blog that I give a fuck to read & scroll till the end. And wow always take away lessons with me. Inspiring! And very relatable. ๐Ÿ‘Œ"

    ~ Ashish Kumar

    Join over 14,000 engineers just like you already improving their careers with my letters, workshops, courses, and talks. โœŒ๏ธ

    Have a burning question that you think I can answer?ย I don't have all of the answers, but I have some! Hit me up on twitter or book a 30min ama for in-depth help.

    Ready to Stop copy pasting D3 examples and create data visualizations of your own? ย Learn how to build scalable dataviz components your whole team can understand with React for Data Visualization

    Curious about Serverless and the modern backend? Check out Serverless Handbook, modern backend for the frontend engineer.

    Ready to learn how it all fits together and build a modern webapp from scratch? Learn how to launch a webapp and make your first ๐Ÿ’ฐ on the side with ServerlessReact.Dev

    Want to brush up on your modern JavaScript syntax?ย Check out my interactive cheatsheet: es6cheatsheet.com

    By the way, just in case no one has told you it yet today: I love and appreciate you for who you areย โค๏ธ

    Created bySwizecwith โค๏ธ