Friday, January 18, 2013

So you think you're ready for publication...


To some of us, writing comes naturally. The words flow, the characters breath and smile, they laugh and fight. Settings take shape, sentences, like the stones in a brick wall, are layered carefully together, and when the story's done, we take a deep breath of relief and satisfaction. It's done.

If only.

Some writer's love editing, others call it the e-word and rank it with other such undesirable words referred to only by their first letter. No matter what you call it, editing is like setting off fireworks in a sleeping household. All those things you thought were wonderful, just right, and all those things you decided were "good enough" are brought up to the top, to be rewritten, tossed away, or trimmed down a little. A story's not done until it's done, and that means edited.

I love editing, both my own writing as well as that of other writers. I love to edit as I write (in fact, I find my manuscripts evolve more organically as a result of the interplay between editing and forward movement; it's a bit like rolling out dough), and I love to get edited after I write. Usually, as I go, I have several alpha readers who read what I've written and I use this feedback to help me get deeper into the particular beast of a story I am trying to tame. I never view it as done until it's in print. True, there's a point at which I think it's ready to be seen by professionals, like the wonderful folks on the editing team at Champagne Books, but even then, the work is just beginning. There's layer after layer to consider so that everything will be just right, and there's only so much I can do on my own to get it there.

When you write a story, how far from your mind is the editing? This is a good question, one I open up to all the other authors who post here.

Are you one of the writers who can't bear the slightest bit of feedback as you're going, and make an earnest effort not to change anything beforehand, lest you lose your momentum and have an ever-evolving beginning? Or are you the kind that works so hard as you go, trying to consider everything, to the point that, when the editing team comes along with their feedback, a mini e-war starts up?

Why is editing so hard for some, yet enjoyable for others? There's lots of answers for that. I've had my turn to blab on with mine. Now, it's yours!


Graeme Brown is a Winnipeg author and line editor for Champagne Books. He writes epic fantasy, with his first story, The Pact, due for release this June. He is a frequent blogger and a tweeter, and a full-time math student.

8 comments:

Ute Carbone said...

You ask some wonderful questions about editing, Graeme. I think I get more concerned about edits as I go along. In my first draft, I lock the inner editor in the closet and just try and get all the words down. In later drafts, I bring her back in to smooth over the rough spots etc. With each pass, I smooth more. I also know that my own inner editor isn't enough and at some point another set of eyes in invaluable. I love the back and forth of working with a professional editor. I've been blessed with a terrific one at Champagne!

Big Mike said...

I've learned more from my editors than I ever imagined. Kind of like the first time with a new lover. At first its awkward, uncomfortable, then things just begin to fit and the two of you become an inseparable team hooked at the hip (yeah, I'm writing a sex scene in my current WIP so all my thoughts are shaded on the erotic.)

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)


Novel Novelist said...

Wow, the difference between a local writers' forum and professional editing is humungous, I'm learning. I've made some of the same mistakes in my second attempt at a thriller as I did on my first, but my editor didn't allow me to get away with it the second time around. Now I have to get back to basics and unlearn some of the things that I was encouraged to do early on in my local experience without having each instance pointed out to me.

It's a process, but I think it's going to make me a better writer. I don't have much trouble leaving my ego at the door, but doing the work well the first time or two makes the whole process less time consuming and frustrating.

I appreciate the insights!

Gary Eddings
Champagne Author

Veronica Helen Hart said...

Often I hear members of my critique group as I write. "Don't use 'that' here." "Careful of those was-es." "Instead of an adverb (-ly word) try more description." I then pause and examine what I've just written. When I turn them off, my writing flows more quickly, however in the end, I find I still hear their voices when I review my work. Because of their useful and constructive suggestions, I find my work needs little editing - at least in the proofreading department. My other group reads works out loud. That is also constructive, almost like a self-correcting machine because often the word that appears correct on paper needs changing when read out loud.

I enjoy the process of layering my work each time I read through for edits. In fact, I find rewriting as much fun as the original creative process.

Ronnie (www.veronicahhart.com)

Judy Griffith Gill said...

I love editing my work (and that of others). When I start my own books, I usually have only a vision or a faint idea or a bit of dialogue. I build on that. The next time I open that piece, I start from the beginning and expand on it, time and time again, each time expanding, revising, expanding, revising, expanding, revising--until about mid-way through the book. At that point I have a pretty firm grip on the characters, the situation, and what needs to happen to bring it all to a satisfactory conclusion. The second half of a book takes me about 25 percent of the time the first half did. But even when I'm done, I let it sit for a few weeks then go back to the beginning and edit myself in the hopes that my editor won't toss the ms across the room or write me a really mean rejection letter.

linda_rettstatt said...

I've been published long enough and with enough different editors from various publishing houses to have learned a few things. The most important thing I've learned is that my enthusiasm for editing is directly proportionate to the enthusiasm and skill of the editor. That's an indirect way of saying a good editor makes me want to work harder. I've experienced both good and not-so-good. (And,no, I'm not naming publishers). I've been blessed here at Champagne with editors who make the editing process a joy rather than a chore because they bring life to my manuscript with their skilled objective view and suggestions.

Dani Collins said...

Great topic, Graeme.

I like Judy's analogy of expanding along with yours of rolling out dough. I'm a little of both, expanding, digging for the right details and trimming what isn't working until the shape is just right. I'm also like Judy in that the first half can take twice as long as the second half because I'm still finding my way. When I know where I'm going, I don't worry about getting everything right, I just plow through the dialogue, like getting a rough and dirty outline of the scene or chapter on the page, knowing I can go back and flesh it out. (How's that for erotic, Mike? lol)

I've pulled out of critique groups--I don't want feedback until I know it's done to my satisfaction, then I'll let someone look at it, preferably a professional. I don't want anyone to tell me how to fix it. I just want comments like, "I didn't understand why she did that" so I can go back and make sure the motivation is on the page.

Getting the raw material out is a bloodletting for me. I relax when it's time to edit. Doesn't even feel like work (unless I have to rewrite an entire section. See previous comment re: bloodletting.)

Nikki said...

Great questions, Graeme. I'm so glad to hear from the authors who find the editing process helpful and even exciting, because good editing is always aimed at making the book the best it can be. As both an editor and a writer, I've been lucky to have had great partners. Every manuscript is a learning experience, whether I'm writing it or editing it. I hope it's the same for my authors. One of the things I love best is that moment when I say, "This could be improved," and then the writer comes back with something astounding, far beyond my expectations. That's the joy that Linda referred to, I think. It gives me shivers.