Editing Isn’t For Wimps

Editing is a big part of a writer’s life.  To me it’s the work part.  I never liked diagramming sentences or conjugating verbs.  Yet, it’s the difference between quality writing and average ho-hum writing.

Yesterday, I hosted Joseph Eastwood and while he was here, I was over there poking around on his blog and found a very interesting post which I shared with my teen daughters.  (They are each writing their own books, which are as completely different as my girls are!) Mr. Eastwood’s post 10 tips for (Teen) Writers! was spot on!

As this was very timely for my own editing, I’m going to add a  variation for the ‘past our teen years’ writers.

  1. His first rule holds for us as well; You’re crap!  The sooner we realize that not every word we write is golden, the sooner we can move on to the edits.  I’ve heard it said often that true writing is in the rewriting.  For me this is true as my first draft is often a massive brain dump of getting the ideas out of my head into a somewhat cohesive flow.  Sometimes it comes out like pohoehoe (pronounced pahoyhoy) lava – flowing in a  river of twisting beauty. Then there are times when it comes out as AA (Ah ah) lava, thick and chunky rocks that don’t fit smoothly and can cause massive upheavals.  Both of these are terms for Hawaiian lava flows, by the way.  Remember I studied rocks and earth sciences? I ‘m a veritable well of geological data that no one really cares about!  Seriously, even Stephen King needs an editor!

OK, now onto my points!  When I edit, there are at least three passes I make.

  1. Grammar  I know, I know, but it’s a must.  Keeping your verb tense correct and your pronouns in check help to ensure that the reader can comprehend the chaos inside my head as an easy to follow – well, mostly easy to follow anyway – story.  For the aspiring authors like myself that have to operate on a tight budget, I found a college grammar course book at a yard sale for a quarter!  This book would cost about $95.00 if purchased new and is very extensive.  I just have to remind myself to reference it more frequently.
  2. Logical flow Does it make sense?  don’t you hate reading a story then suddenly, for no apparent reason a character changes, or a situation is resolved magically.  For instance in romance, the magical vajayjay!  Seriously?  I want my writing to be better than that.  I look for plot holes, reasoning, logic.  The villain may do something randomly good because he has a soft spot for small furry animals, but be vicious to people!  That’s a quirk in his character, but to suddenly show mercy on the heroine because of her charm – that’s so not going to happen.  You have to keep in mind the readers suspension of disbelief!  Basically, does the story make sense?
  3. Objectives  Are the objectives clear?  Are they clearly visible in the scenes?  Are the characters working towards their objectives?  Can you track the progress as you go?  Are your characters objectives in conflict with each other? How can you raise the stakes?  Are the y resolved in the end?  I like tidy denouements, with the exceptions of open strands that lead into the next story.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?  It takes a lot longer than you’d think.  In a discussion with my friend Tim, he pointed out that our writing styles were completely different.  He thinks everything out before putting pen to paper.  Often, I can’t write fast enough to get the thoughts onto paper.  When I’ve finished my massive brain purge and start editing, well this is when the delicate tools of the editing trade come in handy.  I’ve been known to delete huge chunks of my writing because it simply wasn’t working or wasn’t going in the right direction. This is where my Objectives pass comes in.

My mother used to say I was on a tear!  Head down, working hard, extremely focused.  Presently this is when my family says I’m ignoring them.   Well, to some extent I suppose I am.

Have you ever seen a passionate artist getting into their work?  For example, watch Eddie Vedder in concert?  I don’t mean to obsess here, but he’s a good example of a man who puts himself into his work.  Have you ever observed Dale Chihuly when he’s creating?  The man is intense!

When the creative muse is IN, I have to take advantage of it because my  muse is a fickle minx.  If I don’t take advantage at the right time, I get nothing written.  Honestly, I spend more time editing than I do writing.  It’s in the editing that my rough lump of clay that is my writing begins to take shape into whatever I’m molding it into.  I made the mistake of sending a first draft bit of my copy to Tim for edits, and he commented ” You couldn’t have edited this.  This is just not like you!”

Not sure if that’s good or bad, but it was embarrassing for me. It’s one of those ‘naked’ feelings.  Like coming out of the shower and finding your roommate’s boyfriend on the bed waiting for her to finish whatever it was she was doing that left him there, and all I’m wearing is a towel!  YIKES!  (Yes Shelly, I still remember that vividly!)

Now that you know some of my mad secrets and one of many embarrassing moments, let the editing begin!

Write on my friends, write on!




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