March 22, 2013

Editing

You have typed THE END and closed the file of your manuscript. Congratulations! This would be the perfect time to pop the champagne, open that 18 year old whisky, smoke a cigar, make sweet sweet love, or whatever else that qualifies as a pat on the back in your world. Do it, do it all, and enjoy.

But don’t even entertain the thought of being done.

Writing is not just about getting to THE END, it is not just about finishing the manuscript. Most of us will rewrite and rewrite again before we really think we’re done. And yet, we are not done.

No matter what you’re writing, you will need to edit your work for it to be as good as possible. Even this thing I’m writing right now will get an edit pass or two, because I can probably improve upon it.

When you’re submitting a manuscript to a publisher you’ll no doubt have at least one editor that will have thoughts on your words. Lots of thoughts, if the editor is any good. At first the feedback is sugarcoated perhaps, but the pleasantries will either disappear, or just sound hollow to you. This very person, this editor monster, is in fact ripping your baby apart.

It hurts. You feel awful, useless. The whole thing is really close to being scrapped, rewritten, or just forgotten. You want to go drinking, to do drugs, you want to toss out the dream, and you want to cry.

Don’t take it so hard.

Your editor’s job is to find every tiny little bit that they think is less than perfect, and criticize it. The editor’s job is to rip your baby to pieces, so that you can stitch it back together, stronger and better.

It is never a pleasant process. It is like someone tells you that you’re ugly, fat, you have a pimple on your nose, spinach in your teeth, and you smell bad. But multiplied by a thousand, with rusty nails somewhere unpleasant added for good measure.

But it is for a good cause. Your manuscript will reap the benefits of the editor’s comments. Even if you don’t agree with them all, even if you stand your ground and stick with your initial idea, even then your manuscript will be better and stronger because of this ordeal. Don’t forget that you don’t have to agree with your editor, and don’t forget that your editor might have a point.

Edit your words. Cry it out.

And when you’re done editing, go celebrate. Because if you thought you deserved a night out after finishing the manuscript, you’ll deserve it even more when you’re done editing.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.