Do you have an editing style?

I have been wondering about this. I am not sure what styles there are. With writing, there are different ways to approach it. I know a few people who start at the beginning and write until they find the end. They call it writing by the seat of their pants. There are others who plan each story line to make it work together as a whole before they write a single word. Most of us fall somewhere between on that kind of spectrum.

So the editing must have other things about it to make it into different piles. Do you plan out each step of the rewrite? Do you take it in sections? Do you just read and change it on the fly as you go?

Somehow it gets hard to focus on a rewrite when there are so many things to look at. I have been slowly going through the manuscript. I have a plan, but it does not take shape all at once. The latest thing I have been working on is the teen romance plot line. I don’t find that the easiest thing to do, but just taking that one part has made it easier.

Easier, possibly, but I find myself distracted by all the other pieces that need changing, too. Now and then the other things sneak in and they get tweaked. Overall it makes for a quicker change of the parts that absolutely contradicted the things I am working toward. Then I can bring out the more subtle pieces when the framework is in place.

It takes me a lot of time. I also get a little frustrated when I see how quickly those sections get read when they are polished. I could spend hours on a paragraph that the reader takes in less than 10 seconds. But if they enjoy it, all is well.

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Strong Points

Have you noticed, as a writer, there does not seem to be a lot of separation of tasks? I mean, sure, we write, we rewrite, we edit, we polish, which all supposedly falls under the umbrella of writing. The writers I know often seem to be better at one side than the other as far as the writing and the editing go. Some people race through rough drafts with the ease of a knife through butter, and others can polish a sentence to the shine of a mirror in one pass.

None of that goes with the rest of what the writer has to do – be visible. Does it take an awesome writer to gain visibility? Answers may vary, but the short answer is no. You can say all you want about what makes a great writer, but those talents are not the same as the ones to get you noticed by your audience. All of that is about publicity.

Publicity takes different strengths entirely. You can’t be afraid to be noticed or to have people look at you. It’s silly because most of the writers I know are fairly shy people. A lot of them wouldn’t mind at all if you locked them in a tower and bounced their manuscripts off to be published somewhere – but it doesn’t really work that way.

Once you gain some notoriety, then there are both good and bad ratings of your work. Well, this gives the sensitive writer something else to be shy about. One always hopes there will be something good to say about the work in question, but someone out there is always willing to dash your hopes.

There are published books out there about the rejection letters other writers received. I think these books are supposed to be inspirational, but how much rejection is one supposed to take? Once the book comes out and an author waits for reviews, they might be good and might be bad. Plus, even financial success and movie deals won’t stop an amateur or even a non-writer from saying how the book could have been better or saying that the author isn’t good.

Do you ever stop and say, really? First, they tell you not to go into the field because it’s cutthroat. Second, they tell you to expect you’re getting better if you get a hand-written rejection. Third, even getting a book deal with a major publishing house and sharing your vision of character and plot with all the readers and getting your name to be recognized and you still need to deal with the naysayers? Does anyone know when s/he’s reached success?

I know if I believed everything they told me I probably wouldn’t keep writing and submitting my work. Part of why I do it is just to share them with people who would like to read them. In keeping with that goal, I’m posting a story on this site for free within the next week or so. Ironing out the last few kinks in the electronic formats with a copyeditor friend of mine. Don’t be afraid to comment whether you like it or not – partly I want to know that you’re reading it. If you want to send me feedback, please do so to my email. I would dearly love to hear from all of you.

Part of surviving the writing business is knowing where you’re strong and emphasizing those points. I’m not the best at promotion, but I am learning as I go and definitely figuring things out. Enjoy the freebie. I haven’t decided if I’m going to make it a regular thing, but that is definitely something I wouldn’t mind doing if the response is good. [A good response being a lot of people want to read it, not just a lack of death-threats for me to stop writing in my inbox.]

Happy reading.

You Can’t Edit a Blank Page

This saying has been credited to many authors and I can’t find the original. I do believe it’s true, though.

The newest member of my writing group stated she had a story she had been writing in her head, and alarms went off in my head. How can she think she’s writing if it hasn’t left her head?

Perhaps it’s fortunate I curbed my tongue. I did want her to come back. She seems like a good addition to the group.

However, I am wary of those who think they can create stories – which are made for sharing – without writing them down. A first draft is usually crap. It’s allowed to be crap. Perhaps even supposed to be crap.

That’s why re-writing and editing exist – to cure the first draft into something wonderful.

I know some first drafts are pretty amazing. I have a friend who puts my first drafts to shame. It’s not a mark of a good writer vs. a bad writer, just that our starting points are different. We both rework our manuscripts until they shine. At the end, we have styles that change our work and voices that speak to the reader. We hope they’re clear and emotionally moving.

Sometimes we succeed.

Other times we scrap a project as not worthy. It’s just part of the process. But if we’d never written a word, we’d never know. And neither would those who read our work be able to share in the story we create.

Some of these sayings are popular for good reason. Imagine a plain white sheet of paper with red dots all over it. Meaningless without the (presumably) black text underneath. Because of this, I give myself permission to make bad first drafts. I just want the story to shine through, and it might take a few tries.

I haven’t failed until I quit trying, and I count it as forward progress as long as my pages aren’t blank.

Editing

Every writer needs an editor. It’s not about how technically correct the writing is. It isn’t even about how great the story is.

A writer needs someone to look over the work. How many times have I read the big authors talking about how their spouses read over what they wrote for the day? So many talk about the editors of the old days who worked with writers to improve their works.

I listened to an author speak about a year ago, and one of her classmates from her MFA program read everything she wrote. It seems a natural pairing, an editor and a writer – even if the editor in question has no training.

Why? Well, no matter how many times I look at a manuscript, there always seems to be something I miss. Too close is usually the reason. I think that’s true of many of us, though all writers get to different points on their own before enlisting outside help.

But I think just about every writer I know does enlist outside help, an editor or whomever, at some point.

Editing…

Writing, or editing. It’s always one or the other that ocupies my time.

I took a chapter from 3600 words to 2500 today. Most of it wasn’t correcting passive voice, either, though I did manage that. My NaNo Novel from last November has a lot of things that need tightening, and it needs added conflict.

The difficult part is sometimes knowing what to cut and what to keep. It’s YA, and since it occurs in school I think I should have some details of school (I like to do little school details here and there), but I don’t want to beat the kids over the head with it, either. There is a balance between how much school and home life is good, I’m sure, but I haven’t found it yet.

I figured out the parts I want to focus on for this story, and I’m trying to dump the rest. I had an unrelated spelling test, so I deleted it in all its gritty glory. (Oh, don’t worry, there’s a copy. I always keep a copy of the original version in case I get rid of too much or I need to change the focus later. No use trying to remember what it was. I can compare drafts if need be.)

My original estimate was 2500 words per chapter, so I find it amusing to hit that now. I think I should be able to do that with most of the chapters in this book. Some of them are under right now – one of the drawbacks of a writing spring – but at least the story is down so I can tweak it as needed. I find it much easier to focus on the essence once it’s written.

Writing sprints like NaNoWriMo give a good opportunity to get the story down. Just can’t forget that it’ll need a few good edits when you finish.

Critiquing, Continued…

I think part of the thing about critiquing is understanding your style as a reader. You read the same things you write, so it just makes a lot more sense as you re-read.

The same is not true for others, but by learning the different styles and expanding our horizons, we can give and receive better feedback.

I’ve found it’s also helpful to identify problems before asking others to read, because it helps both of us get what I want out of it. 1. You get to help where you know the problems are and 2. They often will agree those are where the trouble spots are, but if they find others, they can bring them up.

The most important thing is to critique the piece, and not the subject (why would you write about that?) or the author. The most important part of getting a critique, is to know it isn’t personal. It has nothing to do with how good of a writer you are or aren’t; it is a personal opinion about the piece you wrote. We all have good days of writing, and we have bad days. We don’t nail every subject as well as we could the first time.

That’s why we edit, polish, and get critiques.

Feedback

Whenever I write a new piece, I want to share it if I think it’s good. I get really excited about some things as I finish them, and I eagerly await the time when my friends can read it.

Then they try to tell me what I want to know, which is how to make it better. Some of them do better than others. All of the things they say about it are valuable to me. I want to know how they felt about it and whether a certain part got confusing. A few even can get into the nitty grammar details that sometimes bog me down. (Do I use ‘s after first names ending in s for possessive? Answers may vary.)

I struggle with the proper questions so I can get the information I really want. Is it enough if someone likes it? Does the hook work? Is the main character likeable enough? Eventually I find a happy medium between what I want to say and how it comes across to others – then I submit it somewhere.

Sometimes this method even works.

Editing Joy

Every time I write something, different things run through my mind. The story is the first part of the focus, but sentence structure intrudes most of the time at a secondary level.

The big things are sometimes the easiest to figure out, but some of them slip through the cracks. It was the final edit of my novel to be published where I found a mistake about who was in class with whom. (While I hope that was the last error, we shall see when it’s printed and everyone else gets to read it.)

In my current novel project I’m identifying all the places where the protagonists interacted with others and making sure it’s all consistent with their personalities. Later I’ll tweak my verbs and check for overall readability.

It may not sound like much fun, but digging into the story to bring it out more is enjoyable. It also means my characters get to live on in my head while longer!

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