Someone asked me recently what the editing process is like. I responded that it is a lot like getting your teeth pulled without the benefit of anesthesia. Okay, maybe it is not physically painful but it is painful all the same.
My first manuscript was a lot easier but to be fair I spent a lot of time throughout the years tweaking and making it better. My second manuscript, Somewhere in My Dreams, was not as lucky. I wrote it last year over a three month period and only revised it once before sending it away to editing boot camp. I think the novel got a culture shock as it thought it was pretty darn good. Okay I was the one with the reality check but again, that is not easy to admit.
The good news was I had a great storyline with a good flow and story arch. Basically meaning the manuscript had good bones but unlike TOB, this story has needed a bit of re-writing. Apparently I wrote a lot of what is called back story meaning that I told the reader what had happened or what was happening instead of showing them and allowing them to see for themselves. That is where the phrase “show don’t tell” comes from. A phrase I have come to know intimately.
Another thing I have learned is I tend to get fixated on a word. That is the only explanation I have for the fact that my editor points out how many times I use certain words within a chapter. This is a no-no in the literary world.
I also got a bit aggravated in one chapter when my editor said she did not understand something I had written. Actually she said it did not make sense. My first reaction was “what do you mean it does not make sense?” I was really upset wondering why I had to change it as it made sense to me, but then I realized if it did not make sense it must have been because I did not write it properly. It was not her fault she did not understand, it was my fault I did not make it clear. I think that was one of those epiphany moments we hear about. Another lesson learned. Just because I can see it does not mean the reader can.
I think re-writes are my least favorite part of the editing process. Not because of the work involved but because my mind was wrapped around how it was and it is sometimes hard to see how it should be. In the end it starts coming to me and things tend to work out.
The thing with the editing process is this, it is not fun, but it is needed. As a writer it is not always easy to look at your work objectively. Unlike painting a picture, which can be abstract and open to interpretation, writing must be clear and decisive. If it is not then it will leave the reader cold and since being cold is not something most people enjoy they are highly unlikely to keep reading.
My editor, Michelle, is my drill instructor. She is the one that tells me that is not good enough, give me more. She is the person who is helping me to make my writing the best it can be and in turn making me a better writer. While I have the original vision for the story she is the one who truly helps make that vision clear. And in the end isn’t that what it is really all about?