Who likes writing best? Who prefers editing? As writers, we all approach our task differently – after all, we are as individual as the many characters we create.
I like to know what my story is about, the main conflicts and struggles my characters will have to endure, and more or less where they will end up - and I like to know all of this before I start. I make myself write a detailed synopsis and I do a lot of work on the characters and their motivations. But it's not until I actually start writing that I really get to know my characters properly. That's when I discover that they have hobbies, and that these hobbies might affect some element in the story line. For example, Judy's stutter is stress-induced and disappears when she solves her problem. Or Jane likes running as a way of escaping things she should be facing, but one day her running route takes her to a spot at the exact time there is an accident, involving the man she has been avoiding.
I love it when my people come to life like this, and it only happens when I start to make a connection to my page through my fingertips. The moment when some small idea is sparked off and takes life is quite magical. It's why we write - well, why I write, anyway.
However, I spent years editing books, not fiction on the whole (although a commission to edit two short novella by Naomi Mitchison was a real challenge and was well documented!), and the training has never left me. I love the process.
I liken writing a novel to the process of making a piece of silver jewellery. First you do a design, then you plan the engineering of the piece – how it will hang together, what will swing loose, what needs to be solid. Then you cut the main shape from the flat sheet of silver, and start the hard slog of hammering and sawing, annealing in red-hot flames and hammering all over again. Once the whole piece has been fashioned, the hard, patient work of polishing and finishing starts. First sanding with a coarse-grained paper, then increasingly fine paper. This is to get rid of the 'fire-stain', the grey marks made by the heating/annealing process. Then it's time to move on to the final stage – polishing using jeweller's rouge, again in various grades of coarseness.
Finally, buff the whole piece up with a soft cloth until it gleams and sparkles and causes gasps of amazement. Just like a finished novel.
To answer my own question then, I guess I like the buffing and polishing, making it sparkle. But then again, every part of the creative process has its own magic...
How about you?