Editing Your Manuscript - Panic IS Never An Option...
I personally love this quote only because as I write this I know that I am now at "one" with my editor. I will get to that later. First of all if you have written anything in your life you have edited it. Most of the time without realizing you have actually done it. Notes, scribbling, homework, your Last Will and Testament, so on and so forth. In the beginning for those who call writing a profession or a hobby know that your first experience with an editor and editing can be like walking through a horror movie dripping in blood, naked in the darkness. It kind of goes like this:
When I wrote the first draft of Cobalt, in 2011, I was electrified and excited. Hell, you deserve to be. You just finished an 80K novel from some thoughts residing inside of your own brain. Let's throw a party! I'll get the champagne, the Twinkies, the music, and we'll all dance and sing! At some point we will end up having some sort of coitus over this I just know it! Whoa! Not so fast there my friend! This thing reads like a bad road map drawn by the people under the bridge with the banjo. So, you stew and stew and stew over this, this, thing that sits in front of you, staring back at you. This manuscript sent by the devil herself sits in your lap unedited. How could this be bad? I wrote it. (Insert sad face emoji) It is exactly as I want it. How dare you tell me this needs more editing!!!!?
Well, the truth is when I received my first editing pass back from my editor I was mortified. Words replaced, lines all over the place, sentences crossed out, comments on the side of the page. It was like the Normandy Invasion and the manuscript was the beach. Holy shit. I had to do a lot of research that first year. Yea, I had writing classes in college and I even loved them, but this was a whole nother ball-game that they never teach you. It's as if the professors don't want to show you what is really going to happen to you should you actually decide to write a book. Take the wind out of your sails, so to speak.
I made remarks and comments to my editor, replaced words, revised sentences, corrected punctuation, and sent it back. Damn, I made things worse! When will this nightmare ever end? I can't sleep. Maybe I should start all over from scratch. But I really like that part, and that part, and that part...I want to pull all of my hair out! The bottom line is this: "Write fast, edit slow". You have heard this a gazillion times by now. But it is absolutely true. Take if from someone who has 'been there done that'. All of the schooling and awards and fast talk cannot prepare you for the inevitable. If you are going to be a writer, you have got to learn how to edit. Plain and simple. There is no ONE editing-fits-all plan either. Everyone is different and everyone writes differently. You are your own boss with your own work. Cobalt took 31 passes before I was satisfied and even then I would say it is never complete and always could use help. Why? Books are not finished. They are abandoned. Yes, you can close the cover and say, "that was awesome and the author left me wanting more!" But inside, as a writer, I want to go back and change things, make them sound better, make those sentences flow. After all, six books later you learn a few tricks and you want to go back and work on your first baby, the one that gave you chills when you were finished. But should you?
I feel more like this after six novels. Relaxed and calm. Ready to write the next great American novel. Only now can I say that I actually have a handle on my writing and editing. Instead of a nuclear blast happening inside of my own brain, I welcome the days I edit. These are the days I look over my latest work, expound on it, revise it, rewrite it, and relish in the fact that I am becoming a better writer. My sentences seem to flow with ease. Great letters and punctuation happen at the speed of Word. There is one thing that you MUST do to achieve the greatness of being an author, Grasshopper. You must find that one editor that "gets" you. What do I mean by that? I mean that I am one sarcastic SOB. If you have read any of my books you know my humor is dark, foreboding, and sarcastic. Its me. I cannot go against the grain. I love a great dark joke. You should not go against your being no matter what it is. Write what you know. You have heard this also many times. It is so true. Believe me I would never start to write romance novels. I don't want to and you don't want me to either. Ugh.
I have found an editor who is on the same playing field as myself. Cindy Calloway. She is amazing, intelligent, and witty. She gets me. On an intellectual level we get each other and I for the first time in my life am not afraid to send a manuscript to her and say "RIP IT TO PIECES!" I want her to go through it and decimate it. I know when we come out on the other end of editing it will be the best it can be. I relish the fact that she has it in her hands and is going to give me hard constructive criticism. I have no ego to bruise now, so anything she recommends I welcome it with open arms. It is all part of the process of being an author. You must lose the ego or you will never make it past book one.
Why am I writing this blog? In this digital world of Amazon receiving 215 new uploaded books daily, you need to stand out. In order to do that you need to be better than the rest. Find an editor you can work with. One who "gets" you. On average it takes 5 years for an unknown author to be "found" if you are not a celebrity and almost no one gets it right the first time. It takes patience and gratitude to become an author.
Everyone writes and edits differently but I thought I would share some things I do to get the creative juices flowing:
1) Create a plot list with at least 5 plots per story. Update it if necessary. You do not have to use them all.
2) Create 5 main characters per book. As above, you need not use them all. make a list of at least 10 personality traits per character. Give yourself 2 antagonists and 2 protagonists per story. Weed out what you don't need.
3) When I am finished writing for the day, I keep a journal by my side. The story will continue to play out in your head. Write down whatever pops out of it. You may or may not use it later. Some of my best story ideas have come from doing this.
4) I edit daily now. Some will tell you that is wrong but I need to do it this way. I reread what I wrote the day before and edit it. Then, I move on to the new part of the story.
5) I never use a thesaurus unless it is absolutely necessary. Just me I guess. I don't feel I need to try and sound smarter than I am just for the sake of doing it.
6) I throw teaser paragraphs out to my Peeps for their enjoyment and for essential feedback.
7) Don't beat yourself up-ever. Some days are shit and some you will soar.
8) There is no such thing as "writers block". I have never personally experienced it. Basically it is not knowing your story line or characters well enough to keep writing.
9) Learn punctuation and above all learn that there are different rules for fiction than non-fiction. (Numbering for example) Do research on this extensively.
10) Editing will become a habit you love if you work at it long enough. You will WANT to edit your work.
Say "Thank You" often, to everyone.
Do not compare yourself to other authors. Everyone is different and everyone is at a different part of their writing lives.
Stop plagiarizing! There is a difference between plagiarism and fan-fiction.
Robotic Love, CG