Friday, January 20, 2012

From the mixed up files of Virg: How I edit my own work

I got an interesting email on one of my loops about editing and it got me to thinking about one of the steps of the writing process that I haven't shared with my up-and-coming author friends.

So yes, this is another one of my very popular How To Be A Writer Posts.

(You are giggling but if you saw the number of views that these posts get, you would agree that they are very popular indeed. *wiggles fingers at writers*)

Editing Your Own Work

After you write something, we all know that you should go back no less than a thousand times and edit it to death. Then you should let it sit for a week or a month or some other lengthy amount of time and then edit it again.

And then your work is perfect.

No, it isn't.

You then need another set of eyes (or ten) to look at it. Me, personally? I send it out to my beta group. I am a lucky gal. My beta group consists of a group of dedicated readers. I have posted what a reader is before on another blog. A reader is someone who is able to see a story for the storyline and tear it to bits. Why did your character talk through a door? Why did they hop in the shower and start blow drying their hair? (Yes, I once electrocuted a character by having them blow dry their hair in the shower. It actually made it through three rounds of edits and got caught in copyedits... but I digress.)

Then I send it out to three professionals. In my case, professionals means people who are either a. also authors so they are just as anal as I am or b. also editors so just as anal as I am. They aren't going to tiptoe around my feelings and treat me like a mamby pamby sissy girl. They are going to make my manuscript bleed. And I like it when it bleeds.

But they are honest and that is why I like the blood. It is good, healing blood. It will get any poison that is making my manuscript sick out and let it be what it could be.

I do the changes, fix it and then...

I send it to three other people.

So, yes, I send it to an ARMY of people. *hellooooo beta world!!*

And then I write a query letter. And I send THAT to an army of people. And they shred my query.

(Are you getting that this whole writing thing isn't the solitary process you were thinking it to be? Yeah, the network you are building? It is an incredibly useful thing. And not just for bitching at 3am about lack of Starbucks delivery service. Although, they are good for that as well.)

And then I submit it to a publisher.

With the full knowledge that if they chose to accept my manuscript that they will then put my work through at least three rounds of edits and one of copyedits. And that the editor might have completely different views and opinions from mine and from the people who beta'd for me.

I once rewrote a book three times while in edits. The editor had me change the point of perspective THREE times throughout the editing process.

And here is the key...

I did not tell off the editor.

Your editor is your friend. Their goal is to help you make your book better using all the tools in their vast arsenal. Not worse. No editor has ever (that I know of) sabotaged a book. Why in the hell would they do that?

Have I always agreed with everything my editors have had to say. Nuh-uh. But they didn't know that.

It has become ritual for me to open edits and a bottle of wine with my best friend and any edits that frustrate me are duly yelled at and told off the first day I get them. With as colorful of language as we can come up with. (Points for creativity are awarded on a scale... meh, we won't go into it.) And then I put the wine bottle away... (Okay, it goes in the trash because it is empty. Don't judge.) and I get serious and do the work. The editors never hear any of those colorful comments. Because that isn't professional. But it is fun to rant and rail-- In the privacy of my home over wine and with my friend.

One of my currently dear friends edited one of my books and I can tell you right now she probably was frustrated as hell with me. She probably was telling me off from her editors chair... which makes me giggle. *wiggles fingers at friend in question* I have a really bad habit of starting out books in first person perspective, changing to third and staying in third. My voice is in third, for the most part. But when I am finding my characters, getting to know my world... I start out in first. And then I catch my stride and fall into third. I ALWAYS do this. I don't fucking know why. But I do. You can literally tell when I get immersed in my story because everything literally smooths out, makes sense and flows... and the red edit marks magically stop. But those first few chapters are always a struggle for me.

Not every editor has known how to deal with that.

But each one I have worked with has taught me something. I have learned bits about blocking from one that I didn't know before. Another gave me priceless information about showing and not telling. Another editor really brought home the value of action modifiers vs tags.

I hit ARe's bestsellers list. I have won awards.

I wouldn't in a million years THINK of self pubbing a piece of my own work that was not EDITED EXTENSIVELY.

The value of editing is something I cannot promote enough. You are too close to your work. You have read and reread the same passage so many damn times that you can probably recite that shit in your SLEEP.

An editor is a fresh set of eyes that can see what you wrote vs. what you think you wrote. An editor can see what your reader will see.

Okay, moral: Edit. Be open to edits. Your work is not as perfect as you think it is.
Drinking wine and playing games that involve coming up with colorful insults is good.

Happy writing!!

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