Today, I’m rerunning a blog from a couple of years ago. It’s interesting that I’m yet again in the editing process…and oddly enough, it’s the same book. Only it’s not the same book. This book is much better. It has grown from a gangly little ugly duckling, into a less gangly, slightly less ugly, near-adult swan. Ok, that makes it seem like it hasn’t improved, which doesn’t say much for my first foray into editing it. But it has. This round of edits comes from an incredibly talented and experienced editor from the publisher the book was picked up by. So, it has progressed, and it goes to show, that every book can always be better.
But, after a few hours of starting the first round of collaborations, I realized that old habits concerning editing for writers, can be hard to break. While I know my bugaboos, and I’m infinitely better at accepting constructive advice and putting aside my writerly pride, than I once was, it can still feel daunting when faced with all of those track changes remarks. I’m here to remind you, in this process to don’t give in when it gets daunting. Don’t give in to pride, when what you’re being told makes sense. So, without further ado, here’s a little piece on editing.
Nope, that’s not a typo. You’ve all heard the adage (or if you’re a writer worth their Peter DeVries salt you have…)
“Write drunk, Edit sober.”
I’m not going to recommend you write drunk. You can… It’s totally possible, and more often than not, highly amusing the morning after. Unlike the headache you’ll be nursing.
DeVries’ meaning was simpler. Write with abandon, in love, fervent and without inhibition. Lower your boundaries and kiss the words you wouldn’t normally, dance with phrases you’d been afraid to hold in your arms. Grab the lampshade of crazy plot twist and wear that son-of-a-bitch as a hat while you twirl through the story.
But in the morning…edit like you’re highly regretful and aiming to pinpoint every mistake you’d made the night before so as to never repeat the debauchery again. Be remorseful. Be judgemental, and like the Spanish Inquisition, show no mercy.
I’m in, let’s say the twelfth round of editing on my WIP. A round that was inspired by a recent submission editor’s advice. This time I’m proceeding with a more somber attitude, one that knows I wrote it, in part, like a drunken idiot and now have dropped my ego enough to be receptive to the advice.
Never before have I been so close to getting a traditional publishing contract for one of my books. Part of this is due to a more polished product (it’s not my first rodeo…or book kids), a more general genre and subject (why do people shy away from paranormal romances and hot ghost sex?), and, I like to think, a cute, relatable plot that’s just enough dark to be interesting.
So, I’m buckling down and doing what I was told to help get this baby off the ground. I’m about thirty pages in and catching some of the ‘problems’ that were brought to my attention. But as I work, I have a concern:
How much of myself and my voice am I taking out of this thing to appeal to the personal likes/dislikes of one editor.
So we come back to somber. Serious. Earnest. Grave. Unsmiling.
Sometimes there are hoops we have to jump through to get to where we want to go. Sometimes we have to shelve our pride and ego and be willing to see past what we love about our work to what could be better.
How do we make sure it’s not just some dime-store novella like the fifty other ones on the shelf? How do I make sure, with all the dead darlings lying beside my computer, that its still my story?
I don’t know those answers exactly, but I’ll tell you what I do know.
I know my characters and the way they react to situations and each other. And where my grammatical prowess may be lacking, I will always stay loyal to them first. When the critique is centered on prepositions or wordy description, I can be earnest in cutting it clean. And not only will my story be stronger, it will be easier to read…hopefully to the point where hands don’t want to let go of it until they finish “just one more chapter”.
So my advice for this week is this:
Take good advice from people in the industry who know when it comes to the technical mishaps of your work. Take the advice to tighten your writing from people who have to spend hours of their lives sifting through the slushiest of slush piles.
But always keep true to the drunken passion of your story that made your heart dance and giggle while it awkwardly pulled that plot line in for a kiss. Keep your story’s heart, but don’t be afraid to pluck it’s wayward eyebrows and wipe its nose.
Good luck, in whatever step you are of your process. Editing, writing, or contemplation of either.
Happy writing, kids!