On Editing... Again


“I have been correcting the proofs of my poems. In the morning, after hard work, I took a comma out of one sentence…. In the afternoon I put it back again.”
– Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)


I'm in the midst of the third set of edits on my manuscript and I decided to take a break and write this post. And I do need a break; I've found that editing is far more difficult than writing. 

We've gotten the "basic" issues out of the way. My almost criminal over-use of the word "that" was dealt with in the first pass-through, and the last one included my tendency to invent words. My poor editor found  place where I had accidentally written, "She had to ponder wonder," instead of just using one or the other and delicately asked me if it was another one of my inventions. (I blame Stephen King for that particular bad habit. I have gleefully added "floorfood" to my vocabulary.)


Fortunately for me, my editor has had some amazing suggestions for improving the story, and she's diplomatic enough that I don't feel bad when she tells me that something isn't working. I don't envy her what must be a very difficult job at some points. As John Osborne once said, "Asking a writer what he thinks about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs."

I used to correspond with a published author. She gave me some excellent advice, which I've tried to listen to, though with varied levels of success. She told me that authors are in love with their own words and cutting them is sometimes like taking your beautiful child in for his or her first haircut. You know it needs done, but you still sometimes cry a little when you see those whisper-soft curls fall from the scissors.

Further, she gave me this piece of advice, which I try very hard to keep at the forefront of my mind while I'm writing: Never include anything unless it directly advances the plot or reveals something important about the characters. If the scene could be cut without the story losing anything, cut it. Empty words only bog it down and distract the reader from the story.

My editing team has made it clear that I'm not required to follow all of their suggestions, but I think it's important to listen, especially to people who have greater experience in this field. Their goal is to improve my work, a goal that we share, and so far, it's been a great first experience. I think my manuscript has been greatly improved by the process. After the book is released, I'll write a few articles on some of the scenes and how they were improved by my editing team's suggestions.
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3 comments:

  1. Interesting! I can't write a damn thing, but hearing about others doing it fascinates me.

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  2. This is a world I know nothing about, but always wondered. Thank you for sharing your insights.

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  3. Very interesting information, Lissa. Thanks for posting.

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