Thursday, April 29, 2010

I love editing - Part Three

In part one, we talked about viewing our manuscripts as "fixer uppers" that we'd just bought. We talked about taking care of the big stuff before we started prettying her up. In part two, we prettied up, and today we're talking about being honest with ourselves about the job we did.

My friend Sally, who runs Bradley Writing and Editing services, gave a fabulous class on self-editing, during which she shared this quote from Michael Seidman (Editing Your Fiction). Seidman says, "If you cannot, or will not, see the errors in your work, no one will be able to lead you to the corrections that have to be made."

I've seen this happen a lot with new writers. They're in their first critique group, they claim they want honest feedback about their work, and when the group starts making suggestions or talking about problems they saw, the writer immediately goes on the defense. If they're a real writer, they eventually calm down and start listening. If they're what we call a "hobby writer," they have an argument for everything you bring up, and soon drop out of the group.

Taking criticism is hard. I know it - I've been there. But learn to do it now with writer friends because you know who else will have changes they think you should make? Your agent. And if he or she doesn't, it'll be your editor. Followed shortly by your readers.

So when you're looking at your manuscript, be as honest with yourself as possible. Sally said to us, "There's nothing wrong with admitting that your Work In Progress (WIP) doesn't yet read like a published novel. In fact, admitting that is the first step to improving it."

Work on developing your eye for improvement.

If something doesn't read like a published novel, figure out why. What is it that sounds wrong - a paragraph? Line? A transition? What's keeping it from working?

And then work on it until it reads like it came from a published novel. Sally said she'd reworked one chapter over and over for a month. While frustrating, when she had her "breakthrough," she was able to spot the problem quicker in the rest of the manuscript.

The last tip that Sally had, which I think is brilliant, is to read quality fiction ONLY. When you read quality fiction, you absorb all those wonderful techniques and word choices. And you aim for higher standards with your own fiction.

Have a great weekend everybody! Questions? Shoot 'em my way.

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