October 15, 2014

Editing and Other Things I Procrastinate From Doing

Why is editing so darn hard? You've written the book. It's the best you can make it. Or so you think... Then a critique partner or editor gets their hands on it.

Long pause for effect.

How could I have missed so many things on the first round? When I review my own work, I read what I think is there, what I meant to say, not necessarily what a reader will see. Plus everyone has different opinions on how to place words, how to describe actions, how to format thoughts or dream sequences. Editing follows basic writing rules, but it's also subjective depending on who is doing the reviewing.

This post's title was selected more for the humorous effect than actual truth. I received my last edits by email at the end of last week. I told my editor I would look at it over the weekend and get it back ASAP. Every night after the kids go to sleep, I work on it, I read my story and review the edits. Every night I fall asleep in my chair, laptop perched on my knees. It's not because my story is terribly boring or anything... Life is just too busy. By the time the work day is done and the kids are in bed, I am exhausted. And my day is far from over. My to-do list is a mile long and everyday it gets longer not shorter. I'm losing the battle on that one.

It comes down to priorites. My number one goal is to finish reviewing those edits and send them back to my editor. I will finish it. (Right after I write this.) Then, tomorrow, I will tackle my to-do list again. After a massage and an episode of Breaking Bad Season 5. It's all about balance, right?

How to edit effectively? What is the correct process? When I'm writing, I must admit, I do edit a little bit as I go. When I pick up my WIP, I re-read the last few paragraphs so I get a feel for where I left off and sometimes I make changes, mainly due to misspelled words written when I was half asleep... zzz... Because that happens. I try not to re-read from the start though. It's up there with running on a treadmill and wondering why you aren't propelling forward. The important thing is to get the first draft down before you start to lose direction. What doesn't work can be changed during the editing process.

Back to the original question. How to edit effectively? Write it down and then let it rest. Wait a week, a few weeks, before self-editing. Like I mentioned earlier, when I review my work, I see my intention more so than the actual words I used. Of course I know what meant - I wrote it! If you wait a little while before reviewing, the words won't be as recent in your memory and you'll be able to be more objective.

The next step in the process would be to select a trusted third party for review/edit. I am fortunate enough to belong to a writing group. My group offers more than editing support... They are an awesome source of advice and encouragement, something we all need at one time or another.

Once you incorporate their comments and suggestions (I often go back and forth a couple of times to get it just right), you're ready to start subbing.

Subbing (submitting your manuscript for publication) is a whole other topic... Maybe next week's blog??? Let's skip ahead to the point where your story has been accepted. Then the real work begins. The serious, hardcore editing process with the professionals. With my novella, I went through three intense rounds of editing before line and final edits.

Editing is a process. Every time you read your work, you will find something else to add or some other area to tweak. It's not finished until you see it in published print and, hopefully, you won't see anything else you'd like to change at that point. Editing is a crucial part of the whole writing process. Who cringes when 'John' suddenly becomes 'Joe' for a paragraph or when you find spelling errors or other typos? An error like that can ruin the reading experience. So, do the hard work up front, invest the time to edit properly, and you will reap the rewards later.

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