Wielding the red pen – catharsis or disaster?

I like the red pen. Many say it’s crushing, demeaning, aggressive. I find it’s clear and an excellent contrast to black type on white paper. and at this stage, I want clear.

As an unpublished writer, I haven’t had the experience of my work being edited by a professional publishing house editor, but as a translation project manager, I’ve corrected, edited and proofed a hell of a lot of text over 25 plus years. You can tell when a translator/writer is struggling/has a cold/is hungover/tired or bored. The writing dies.

I’m experiencing that at the moment as I grind through book 2. It’s 9 months old and just been brought out of the archive ‘drawer’. Sometimes, I’m really strict, like this:

Other times, I re-convince myself I can string more than two words together and I end up with this :

But I’m not talking about the beauty/clunkiness of the prose. I want to urge you to be strict with your own work, to try to detach and pretend it’s another person’s work, if you find that easier, and that the other person has told you to spare nothing. You are not attacking your baby. Like a child it needs both loving discipline as well as encouragement if it’s going to grow into an independent, adjusted member of the book-world.

Do you agonise or can you wield the machete, sorry, red pen, with effect?


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