Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Editing Highs and Lows

It's that time of year again. Since I'm writing a series in which one volume is released each fall, the prior winter brings on the editing work. I've have three people in my critique group read through my most recently submitted manuscript. Everyone has their own editing style. Some readers look out for the grammar, others look out for the conflict, climax, and "What is the point of this scene?" While others focus on dialog, sentence structure, and "talking heads." It's really necessary to have several readers take a look at your work. One person will give you one opinion. Multiple readers will provide a well-rounded overview of your work, whether specific technicalities or a broad range of opinions, your work can only become stronger.

Recently I returned to a manuscript that I wrote a number of years ago. As I read through the first chapter, I saw some flaws--things that I wouldn't have noticed, or believed were there, when I penned those first words. In my mind, the story is exciting, compelling, and worth publishing consideration. Then I realized something else. Writing is about finding your voice; editing is about losing your ego.

I have to set aside all my preconceived notions about the value of my story to see what lies beyond the intention. If the reader doesn't feel drawn into the story as I was when writing it, I haven't done my job. And that's the hard part--creating a work that others can grasp the full story and value it for what it is, not what it is meant to be.

Through my editing company (www.precisioneditinggroup.com), I see many manuscripts that contain the same beginning mistakes I made. It's very difficult as a writer to see past your own work. It's all there in your head. As you self-edit, whatever is lacking on the page is filled in by your mind. The trick is to differentiate between the two and make sure your story is fully developed.

If you've only let family members or close friends read your work, you need to take the next step . . . approach a creative writing teacher, a fellow writer whom you respect, or enter a writing contest that provides judging feedback. But don't stop at one or two readers. Secure at least three or four readers to take a look at your work. Even if you are part of a critique group, chances are they know your work inside and out. You might consider asking someone outside the close-knit group for a second opinion.

Or if you've taken those routes and still can't get an agent or editor's attention, think about hiring a professional editing company. There are many to choose from, and they range in expertise and price. But I believe receiving a completely unbiased and open critique can be the key to setting you on the road to publication.

3 comments:

Annette Lyon said...

"Writing is about finding your voice; editing is about losing your ego."

Truer words have never been said! Well put, Heather. Now if that second part were just a little easier . . .

Heather B. Moore said...

Right. I think it sets apart those who get published and those who don't.

Susan Wilson said...

Heather:

I hope you don’t mind a few thoughts from one professional book doctor to another. Consider this a pair of editing eyes at your disposal for, say, a five minute cyber space promotional offer. For whatever reason I was drawn to your blog and I thought I would chime in on your editing thoughts.

If I were editing your post “Editing Highs and Lows” dated Tuesday, January 30th 2007, through my editing service company I'd suggest you make your blog more personal, offer praise more liberally, get rid of terms like "person" or “people” and, if you don't feel comfortable using first names to reference your friends and peers, then consider refering to them by title or even better yet by an affectionate nick-name title which combines elemnts of their nick name and their title.

Remove the substantial repetition and find a comfortable voice that mirrors your personality. The numerous repetitive phrases of advice tend to camouflage the nuggets of wisdom you're trying desperately to share with readers.

Try a few contractions like "I've" done in the first sentence of this paragraph. Jettison the phrases that say the same thing despite how wonderfully worded. And if that doesn't work, try rewriting your advice as if you were explaining your personal journey through the editing jungle. Don't shy away from characterizing advice in a more personal way.

These changes may uncover your voice currently hidden beneath far too much formality. They will open up your mind, your heart, nay, your soul to readers. And once you've revealed yourself in that personal voice, readers will be intrigued with the prospect of joining you on whatever journey your pen transports us to wither its changing diapers, changing political parties or changing the world. And it just may transform your blog from a series of posts into an experience. May I suggest something like this?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Editing Highs and Lows


It's that time of year again: winter editing for another volume in a historical fiction series with a release date in the not-so-distant fall. Lucky for me I've cultivated the friendship of three competent, if not stellar, first-time readers and each of them manages to find something unique in need of my attention—a bit of dysfunctional grammar, an unresolved plot, or my biggest blunder—lapses in point of view. Whatever the malady, having multiple book doctors review my manuscript provides the diverse feedback I need to nurse my novel onto its own two feet and give it new life.

Good luck with your blog, your writing and your editing endeavors.

Dr. Bookwoman