Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Seeing Red...and Blue...and Green...

While I was away at the beach, edits came in on a recent story. It's a short, so I figured it was no big deal and I'd be able to tackle them pretty quickly. Now, to give you some perspective, when I'm really on, I can edit a short in a day or two. Then I opened the file.

Holy highlights, Batman!

There was...a lot. And I knew without a doubt I needed more than a couple days of sneaking away from family time to get it done. Most editors who have worked with me (and talked to me while I was editing) know that I can tackle big issues pretty handily. Editor points out a problem, I slap my hand against my forehead, wonder how I could have been so stupid as to not see the problem, and I get to work on fixing it. It's the little things that give me fits. (I'm sure Gina remembers well when I was working on edits in Italy and had one sentence that I couldn't get right. She told me to skip it. I refused, and the answer came to me while trying to sleep on the flight home.) And almost everything I needed to fix in this story was a little thing.

My intense love for edits (yes, I'm weird) quickly turned into a lot of loud groaning about not wanting to do it. You see, I had this illusion that the more stories I had published, the easier edits would get because I'd have been learning to fix all those stupid things I did wrong. The fact is I appear to replace one stupid thing with something new. My "that" problem? Tackled. Gone. Over. (Believe me, it took a long time.) Now I have things that can't be solved with a simple "delete".

But you know what? I'm seeing the tail end of this round of edits now--I'll finish them today--and as much as I hate to say it, I think it was a good experience for me. First, it made me realize there will always be something in need of fixing. That's a really freeing thought. I'm going to screw up, so I just need to worry about writing. Second, I found that even some of the little things need to be fought for. A suggested change of wording to something that your character would never use., a turn of phrase that your betas all loved, intentional use of passive structure--all of those things can be important. The point of edits is to figure out when they're most important, because that's when you dig your heels in (which is hard to do when you haven't made a bunch of other suggested changes--makes you seem like a diva :P).

Now that I've struggled through all the itty-bitty detailed changes, I can say I still love doing edits. I'm hoping when I do my read-through before hitting send later today, I'll be able to smile and say the changes made the story stronger. Because that's the point of all the moaning, groaning, hand-wringing, cursing, and throwing of things--to make it better.

In the meantime, I'll repaint the target on my office wall for the next round of throwing thi...er edits.


  1. Speaking as someone who both goes through edits and edits for others, I can tell you, too, that the better your writing gets, the more edits there'll be--because the cleaner the manuscript, the more the editor can really delve in and tweak.

    I always see it like a messy room. You go in to clean a room, and you end up focusing on the big things--vacuuming, sorting, getting the gum off the floor. When the room's already clean, you notice every little thing that's slightly off (the negative space around the knickknacks on the shelf is off balance, the pictures aren't totally level, there's some dust in the corner that was missed).

    Of course, I'd rather edit than clean, but anyway...

  2. I prefer editing to cleaning too, but that analogy makes total sense. Just please tell me dealing with the little nit-picky things gets easier. Please?

  3. I think so, but then I've always dived in and made the small fixes first anyway, so when it started being mostly just small things, it was a breeze. Nitpicky stuff always makes me twitch a little as a writer (like, "Seriously? THAT is what you're bitching about? WTF?"), but I'd rather those than, "The pacing totally sucks and you need to rewrite chapter three, combine six and seven, and lose subplot C." I'd prefer having a word choice questioned--making me really think about what I'm trying to say--or debate a punctuation change, or have a logic flaw pointed out.

    Of course I say this as I'm days away from sending revisions to my editor, along with specific instructions to help me cut like 5K from the manuscript. You'll hear me crying when I get it back from her again.

  4. I'm going to trust you on that. In the meantime, I need to go finish cutting body parts (at least I'm done with the nipples and clits :P)

    And I promise to commiserate with you when you hear back from your editor :)


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