Welcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!
Today I’d like to talk about edits. Aside from blurbs and synopses, nothing provokes more whining in authors and wannabe writers than the dreaded EDITS. Well, I guess I’m weird because I don’t mind that part. I mean, aren’t they part of the process?
Think about it. An artist does not sit down and design a perfect book cover on the first pass. It’s a painstaking process of finding or making the images, lining them up perfectly, trying again about a thousand times, finding the perfect font, balancing that with the images, on and on and on. And then they let it sit for a while and return to it with fresh eyes.
A musician does not sit down and write a piece, as if he were taking dictation, unless he’s Mozart. LOL! But seriously, it’s a long process, completed in bits and pieces, over hours and hours of detailed work and endless revisions.
A movie goes through numerous cuts in the editing process. Sometimes those cuts are kept in for a separate release known as a Director’s Cut, and often they are released on a blooper reel or included as deleted scenes in a separate featured extra.
Why, then, would anyone who writes expect to sit down at the keyboard and bang out a perfect book requiring no corrections or tweaking, in the first draft? Seriously? If you believe that’s how it’s done, you don’t understand the creative process.
Take this blog post, for example. Ten drafts to get to the one you’re now reading. Sure, plenty of authors write fairly clean the first time around. I’m one of them. But I still edit my work MANY times before it goes to the publisher. Writers, like artists and musicians, are only human beings. And even published books that have had many sets of eyes on them before they were completed contain mistakes.
Editing is akin to tweaking your image or fine-tuning your composition. It’s the same necessary step in creation that an artist or musician goes through. Writers aren’t exempt from this.
Try looking at this another way. Editing is your chance to take a look at your story with fresh eyes. It’s an opportunity to make it even better. To fine-tune the emotions of your characters, and to add a bit more meaning to their conversations. It’s a chance to place tiny actions here and there that emphasize their personalties, foreshadow an important plot point for your readers, or give your hero and heroine more depth.
Words are our medium, the same way notes on a page are the musician’s medium and brush strokes are the painter’s medium. Words are what we use to paint a picture in the reader’s mind, and compose a song in their hearts.
If you find the idea of going back through the entire manuscript and editing it exhausting, try breaking it down instead. There’s no rule that says you HAVE to complete an entire draft first and THEN go back. You can edit every chapter if you like. You can go back and read over what you wrote the day before, like I do, and edit that part before you move on. You can edit in whatever way you choose because it’s YOUR creation, and the only hard and fast rules are the ones YOU decide on.
Either way, expecting a perfect manuscript the first time around without the additional work of fine-tuning it isn’t realistic, nor does that do you or your readers a favor. Everyone’s work could use some improvement. It’s not your editor’s job to fix a messy first draft. It’s YOURS. Self-editing is part of the process of writing a book.
When discussing edits you receive from your publisher or an editor you’ve paid, after the manuscript is finished, it’s still YOUR job as a writer to do them. An editor is there to help you improve the story, not turn it into something intelligible, with correct grammar and punctuation. You should already be doing that part yourself. If you’re not, we have bigger problems than your hatred of editing.
Until next week, happy writing!