Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Editing is a Form of Torture

I love to write. Escaping into my character’s heads and living vicariously through their crazy adventures is fun, cathartic and sure beats the heck out of my day job. I whipped out an 89,000 word novel and had so much fun writing it, I quickly moved on to the next book in the series. Then people started asking me when I was going to send my book out and try to get it published. “I have to edit it first,” became my static response. Three months of saying this made me face the inevitable; I needed to edit the manuscript. So I shelled out $22.50 to print it out in its entirety, sat down in a quiet room and began a hard edit.

Twenty minutes later I started to panic. I don’t have OCD, but I can get obsessive (which explains the 300 posters of Skid Row and Sebastian Bach that covered my bedroom walls as a teenager). I started to analyze every sentence, every punctuation mark. I noticed that I liked to use the same words…a lot. I became convinced that somewhere in the world editing is used as a form of torture, like water boarding. I pushed on and forced myself to only pick out glaring mistakes the first read through. This helped tremendously and I actually began to get absorbed into the story. The character’s made me laugh, some scenes were so intense they made my stomach tighten and I realized underneath all the potential nit-picking, that I had written a book and it wasn’t half bad.

I finished the first read through, made corrections, added some scenes and beefed up the back story of some of the characters. Then I stopped. I went back to writing another novel in progress because I missed writing and this editing business is a lot of work!

It has been almost two months and The Beautiful People (my finished novel) sits on the end table collecting dust. The pages beg to be edited and whisper to me as I type away on another manuscript. Since I've had such a bad case of writer's ADHD lately, I've decided to focus on The Beautiful People and get all of the edits out of the way.

To help make the characters more real for me, I picked celebrity muses who best physically represent my main characters (pictures enclosed). This was a fun little project and made me excited to go back and edit. I mentioned this to a friend, who is also a writer and struggling with editing her manuscript, and she is thinking about taking my idea one step further and creating a scrapbook to collect images representative of her fictitious town plus her characters – almost like a storyboard.

Going forward I think I’m going to include this exercise as part of the creative process and not wait until the editing part. Do any of you have suggestions for getting through the editing process?


  1. I use the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It takes some of the 'bleh' out of the editing process and really helps me tighten the manuscript.

  2. Hi Twitter friend! It's me, loretta8. I feel your pain. I've discovered I have many annoying tendencies in my writing that make me cringe, but I enjoy the editing process, not so much the spelling/grammar part, but the construction of the story itself. I've lost count how many times I been through "Crooked Bridge" but am trying to work up the nerve for another round of "Let's Get Rejected!". One of my professors told me to never make editorial decisions at 3am. Good advice that has helped in a number of unrelated situations.

    What I suggest, is put the pencil down and just read your manuscript as if it were someone else's. (This is hard for me as I tend to try and read everything with a pencil in my hand.) Think about the dominant impression the story left you with. Is that what you were shooting for? What did you like and dislike about the story? Write these things down.

    Next, get that pencil and go chapter by chapter making notes. Does each chapter have a beginning middle and end? Does it move the reader closer to the resolution of the primary story question or has it gone off on an unrelated tangent? (I'm bad about that last one.)

    Look at the notes you've made and see if there are any issues that keep coming up, like those repeated words and phrases, even scenes. (I read one book where the main character reflected over and over about the same scene with her mother until I couldn't take it any more.)

    Are there any glaring problems with the plot, timeline or characterization that have to be fixed? (Never decide to go back and change a character's name half way through the story. I guarantee you'll miss one no matter how many times you look.)

    Will any of the changes you want to make cause unwanted changes further down the line?

    Now make your changes and read the manuscript again. I find that no matter how many times I go through mine, I always miss something, as if my brain corrects it for my eyes because it knows what I meant. When you think you're done, have a friend or family member read it for you.

    Okay then, hope that helps a little. Good luck and keep me posted! : )

  3. Thank you!!! See in the Twitterverse and I will definitely keep you posted!