Tuesday, January 29, 2013

You want me to do WHAT!?!

I always knew writing a book wouldn’t be easy, wait…scratch that. When I first decided to write a book, I didn’t know writing it would be the easy part.

A few weeks ago I received the first set of notes from my content editor and when I opened the file to discover the 670 comments she’d made, I nearly passed out. After taking a deep breath, (and possibly indulging in an adult beverage, okay I didn’t really, but I thought about it) I began going through her notes and comments one by one. What I found was that about a third of the comments were things she liked about the story or things that made her ‘LOL!’ Another quarter to a third of the comments were simple things, like changing a word or using a different expression. But the remaining comments were things that would actually change the entirety of the manuscript, not necessarily the outcome of the story, but certainly how I arrived at it.

I learned long ago that when I get notes back from a critique partner or beta reader, I really need to let them sit for a day or two (or three) until my brain has had time to mull over the suggestions and decide if they are something I need to consider, or something I can disregard. Sometimes I will get notes from a beta read that are so bizarre, I wonder if they’ve actually read my story.

Once I’ve given myself time to let the notes sink in and contact the CP, Beta, or now my content editor with any questions I have, I re-open my manuscript and start to work. In this past set of edits, I went through and tried to find a reoccurring theme to what my editor was telling me, things like using more description and not using body movements as a crutch. The next thing I did was find things that stood out, like overused words or phrases (You would not believe the number of times my characters nodded. They’re bobble-heads I tell you!). Lastly, I looked at the things she liked and tried to sprinkle some of that throughout the entire story.

I won’t lie to you and tell you that editing is fun, because it’s not and you have to really, truly love the story in order to go over it page by page, line by line, until your brain feels like mush.

The hardest part, though, is when someone wants you to cut something you love or add something that doesn’t feel right to you in the story. Now, cutting something is always hard because these are your words and how dare someone tell you they need to go. But sometimes even the most beautifully written passage no longer works with the other things you’ve changed, or you’ve managed to move things around so that you don’t need those words anymore and cutting them really is the right thing to do.

Adding things to your manuscript is hard for a couple reasons:

One, because you’re lazy, there, I said it. You know there are places in your story where there is lazy writing because you just needed a little filler to move you to the next big thing. But these filler moments need to have purpose just like everything else. Every word you put down needs to serve a purpose to the story.

Two, because it’s a difficult task to get what’s in your head on to paper. You’re MC may be standing in a field in the middle of nowhere, but is it a corn field, or a soccer field? Adding the descriptive things are what take the book from good, to great, to awesome!

Do you have any tips of tricks for getting through the editing process? I’d love to hear them.

(As a side note, be sure when your MC’s eyes get angry, that they fill with fury, and not furry.)


  1. Haha, eyes filling with furry sounds like what happens after a naive and unfortunate google search.

    I notecard at every stage of the game, so when I have major edits to do, I write new notecards for the scenes that will be changed/rewritten. After that, I make notes on the old cards for scenes that will be affected by the change. Then I go through the text one change at a time, usually finding other areas where a change I thought I'd taken care of has made unexpected ripples.

  2. Ah typos. The bane of my existance. How can I not see the missed commas, run-ons and furry eyes after I have read it five times? And there are so many choices for how to say it all. It's hard to commit sometimes. Once I even edited my own copy of my own short-story that was published in an anthology! After it had been printed! And with red. pen.
    I am a never-ending-editor of my own work. That's why I love my CPs and will hopefully love my (real) editor--when I get one.
    ~Just Jill