Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Satisfaction in Self Editing

A popular post from March 2010. 

By Julie Wright

Many years ago, I met Carole Thayne Warburton. It was her first book signing and she was the author scheduled to sign after me at the bookstore. She seemed shy and nervous, so I stayed a little while longer and chatted with her. She was wonderful and I was glad to get to know her. She told me a little story about her path to publication. She'd spent a long time in the editorial process. Her editor kept sending back her manuscript and saying, "Good, but now we need this changed . . ."

I'm sure my eyes were huge and I felt angry on her behalf. And I asked her, "Weren't you furious having to rewrite that many times?"

Her response has stayed with me and kept me company on many a long night of editing: "I was at first. But every time they sent it back to me, I took it as a challenge to make the manuscript better. And now I know the finished product is as good as it can be."

Carole taught me the most valuable lesson I've ever learned in my writing career. She took it as a challenge to make it better. She didn't sit down and start rocking back and forth while wailing. She stepped up and faced the challenge directly. She may have inadvertently saved me from myself. Because not too long after that, I encountered a very bumpy publishing road.

Without her words echoing in my brain, I would have quit writing. I would have cast aside my pen and declared the venture not worth it. But by her calling it a challenge she had to meet, I recognized that bumpy road for what it was--a challenge. And who turns their back on the opportunity to make their manuscript better?

Certainly not me.

Today I am editing my own book so I can send it off to my agent. I've received edits back from editors I trust and decided to dive in. And already--the manuscript is better. Already the scenes are more clear, motivations are solidified, and characters are nailed firmly in place. It usually takes me a week after getting edits before I can be objective. My natural response is to want to defend my writing. But then I grumble, settle myself into my chair, and start fixing.

And it feels good to fix, to adjust, to clarify--to know that the things I am fixing now will not come back to haunt me in reviews on Goodreads later.

You are not obligated to do everything an editor tells you to do, suggestions remain merely suggestions, and sometimes editors are wrong (I know I am on occasion). There a million right ways to tell a story, and just because an editor gives you one path to follow doesn't mean it's the only path.

But you should take satisfaction in your opportunities to self edit down whichever path you choose, because each thing you fix makes the manuscript that much more worthy for publication. Then you can sit at your book signing, like Carole, and know the book in front of you is as shiny and polished as it can possibly be.

8 comments:

Kimberly said...

One thing I'm learning is that not only does the editing process improve the manuscript at hand, it teaches me skills to apply to future writings. And also, to help friends who are on the same path. I'm currently going over a friend's WIP and I'm catching things in it because another friend caught them in mine. It's quite the education.

Taffy said...

Thanks for your post today, Julie. I really, really, needed it!

Annette Lyon said...

SO true! I was ready to torch one of my books after what felt like my editor's ten thousandth revision suggestion. But that book has turned out to be largely my readers' favorite--and it got me one big award and I was a finalist for another.

In the end? Yeah, those blood, sweat, and tears were worth it. And I'm grateful for the editor who was willing to push me to bring that manuscript to the next level.

Laura said...

One of the most amazing things about writing is that you never stop learning.

Thanks for sharing this.

atsiko said...

Great post. Sometimes you just need to buckle down and BIC for revisions.

It's better than reading the book a few years later and tearing your hair out over the horrible errors.

C.L. Beck, author of Mormon Mishaps said...

Good advice. It might be a pain to edit, but it's worth it in the end.

porcelaine said...

There's something to be said about the editing process. Exposing your work to outsiders always opens the door for criticism and suggestions for improvement. Nonetheless, the objectivity and feedback can be beneficial if viewed as such. Much like the author mentioned, I see it as an opportunity to fine tune the product.

Nishant said...

I'm catching things in it because another friend caught them in mine. It's quite the education.
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