The editorial voice and the process of writing
The part of the mind that generates story is a free-spirited child, darting about, catching ideas, looking for the surprise in the grass that suddenly ties up metaphors or plot lines. That writing mind is like Shakespeare’s sprites: “If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended: that you have but slumbered here, while these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding than a dream…”
The editorial mind wears lace-up shoes and carries a wooden ruler. She is there to bring control to the feathery mess the sprite has caught. The two are not compatible. The human mind cannot write and edit at the same time. So don’t try. Set aside your draft for as long as you can afford to. You will know when you are ready to rework its plot points and characters (first, before you get into the language part. This is still a slightly different part of the mind.) and the grammar, your sentences, and your word-choices. If you make friends with the lady with the ruler, rewriting/editing can be fun, too. In fact, because you’re no longer staring at a blank page, it can be more fun than generative writing. My initial writings almost always go on too long. Editing, I frequently remove the last sentence of a paragraph. I laugh at myself when I see this habit, but I don’t try to change it because I don’t want to limit the generating stage of writing. I just know I probably overwrote, and so I make the same corrections every time, laughing at my own consistency as I do.
Proofreading as an art
There’s a particular kind of obsessive eye that likes to find interruptions or disturbances: The proofreader’s eye! I have such an eye…for other people’s writings. BEWARE! Do not try to proofread your own document, unless you also have someone else, someone who had different spelling errors in sixth grade, read it as well. Editing may be a different part of the mind, but proofreading really needs to be someone else’s mind altogether.
Spellcheck has not eliminated the need for proofreaders. Many times in self-published books, there are problems like text drop-outs that require a final go-over just before press-time. The art of proofreading is to read without reading. The proofreader may not be able to tell you what the story was about, but s/he will check that the sentences have subjects and predicates, that the tenses match, that the punctuation is really there (amazing how periods can drop off pages.), that the text which is interrupted at the bottom of one page really does continue on the next page. This is not the same work as a copy-editor does. That should come earlier, along with character development and story structure. I love doing proof-reading.