Monday, December 17, 2012
New Year's Resolution For All Writers - The Patient Edit
"I will never rush through an edit again. I will give my first draft a month to breathe, then edit it, then another month to breathe, then edit it again, and another month, and another edit. Then a final edit and a proof...unless it needs more edits. And I will be honest with myself and not accept my book as finished until I feel to the bottom of my soul that I can't make it any better. I will also encourage my beta readers to be brutally honest with me and not get upset with them. I will listen objectively to what they have to say and if they don't like something or think it's not working, I will take their critique seriously and look into the issue and make necessary changes to alleviate the problem they pointed out."
I've already made this resolution. I took this vow earlier this year, and I kid you not, once you go through this exercise once, as long as you're editing right and utilizing your critique group correctly (by encouraging them to absolutely shred your manuscript and be blunt-force honest down to the ugly, hard, no-holding-back-for-fear-of-hurting-your-feelings truth), you will NEVER go back to editing in a rush again.
[A word on beta readers: They are there to help you. If you argue with them and don't listen to their critique, they will stop being honest with you and will stop reading for you. They can see things you can't, because you are too close to your manuscript. They have distance, so they can see where the piece falls short better than you can. LISTEN to them, and DISCUSS with them, but do not argue with them. Make them feel a part of the process by trusting their judgment. If you do that, you will win their trust and their loyalty.]
Okay, that's my lecture on how to work with a beta group. :) Back to the resolution and why I am so passionate about encouraging other authors to make it:
Four months ago, I thought my latest AKM novel, Rebel Obsession, was ready. I set it aside for a two months and when I picked it back up to proof it, I was appalled at how flat areas of the story were, and how a few scenes didn't flow smoothly. So I edited it again and set it aside for about a month. In that month, I read a powerful book on Deep POV (I blogged about it). When I re-read Rebel Obsession again during the proof, I was flabbergasted at how passive the story still was. Using the techniques I learned in the book on Deep POV, I put the manuscript through an intensive final edit and shot it to my editor.
Instant success! Night and day difference. It took that fifth or sixth (I lost count) edit to FINALLY bring the story to life.
I am so unbelievably impressed now with how Rebel Obsession turned out. The editing phase on this one lasted over six months and went through so many edits, I lost track. It's not even the same book it was after the first draft was written. Hell, it's not even the same book as it was after the second edit. And I'm damn proud of it. The loose ends have been tied, the awkward areas have been eliminated, the mechanics have been cleaned up, the characters have been honed, etc. The story has come alive, and the characters have with it. And here I thought it was ready two months ago. Ha! Two more rounds of edits proved me wrong, making me a die-hard believer of the "patient edit," as I'm calling it.
So I encourage all writers to be patient and have faith in the editing process. Fully commit to it, and I promise, you'll never edit the old, fast way again. Oh, and never stop educating yourself on good writing. Read every book you can get your hands on pertaining to the crafts of writing and editing.
Best wishes for a Happy New Year!