The Art of Editing
Contributed by MRW Secretary D.L. Rogers
In the twenty-plus years I’ve been writing, I’ve heard a dozen different ideas on how to edit. Is one way better than another? Who’s to say? What works for me may not work for someone else. In reality, do what works for YOU.
Do you write your entire manuscript then edit when you’re done? Get all those great ideas in your head on paper before you even think about editing them? Do you edit your most recent chapter before you start a new one? How many times do you edit? Once? Twice? A dozen? I bet every single author has a different approach to how they edit.
Is editing even necessary? You bet it is! Who should do it? That’s another good question. You should always edit your work until you feel you can’t change another word, add another sentence or delete another phrase. And when you think you’re done—then you send it to beta readers for their critique and words of wisdom. What are beta readers, you might ask? They are your friends and family who will read your work with an eye toward telling you, honestly, what they think about what you’ve written. Who will answer questions you ask as to whether they “feel” the character or if they can “see” the settings? Are they moved by the story? Maybe you brought them to tears. Or are they bored? Don’t get what you’re trying to say. The bottom line is—will they be honest in their critique? Even if it hurts your feelings? If the answer is yes, that’s who you need to beta read your manuscript. How many beta readers, you ask? A good number is three, but as many as are willing to be honest in their assessment.
So, your beta readers have read your manuscript and returned it. What do you do with their suggestions? You consider them. You decide the merit of what they say and adjust your manuscript accordingly—if you agree. The bottom line is that this is your story. If suggestions don’t fit with what your story is to you, go with your gut.
Okay, you’ve made whatever changes you’re going to make. What now? It goes to the “real” editor. Someone who will pick the bones of whatever is left. They’ll rip it, shred it, and tell you every, single, little thing that’s wrong with it. They’ll cut your beautiful sentences into two, sometimes three shorter sentences. They’ll tell you not to use flowery words. To write as though to a fifth-grade audience. You’ll be told to strike parts you love, because what you’ve done is an “information dump.” A no no. But I WANT that information!!! They’ll tell you you’ve intruded as an author or that you’ve been “telling” your readers instead of “showing” them. Your heart screams out! NO! This is my baby, my creation. I can’t make those changes.
But you can—and you will. You must. Because in order to become a better writer—you must evolve. You must grow. You must edit, edit and edit more. The more you edit the better your work becomes. Someday, you might even get to enjoy it. Work toward that. Because every time you edit—your work gets better!