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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Editing – the Agony and the Ecstasy! (Well, it’s mostly agony but the title sounded good…)

Having submitted my MS to the publisher I met at the New Jersey Romance Writers’ conference in October 2008, I was thrilled to hear in early January that they really, really like it. Yes, she said really twice. (Watch out, there’s a ‘but’ coming.) BUT, they want me to make changes and resubmit before they can offer me a contract. My initial ecstasy at the “really, really” was immediately tempered by the editor’s requested revisions. She asked me to write a prologue and work on some POV and showing vs. telling issues. Interestingly, her suggestion for a prologue, a bit of back story illustrating the heroine’s motivation, was something I had previously considered and rejected. A while back I had actually written the same scene but felt it didn’t work and filed it away. When I dug it out and reread it, I realized it sucked, but was able to salvage a line or two. Lesson: never delete something you’re written, no matter how bad; you never know when you may be able to recycle. The POV and showing/telling problems are more complicated. I am very attached to my words and find the rewriting process tedious and quite frankly, painful. I have to drag my body over to the computer when I get home from my full-time day job (you know, the one that pays the rent), after I’ve finished procrastinating by watching up to two hours of TV. (Local, national and international news, plus a news magazine – hey, everything is a potential source of inspiration for the next novel and one has to know what’s going on in the world, right?) Other excellent sources of procrastination (in case you need a few suggestions): cleaning out that closet you haven’t gotten to in the last three years, calling that elderly aunt whom you can’t stand but really do owe a call, organizing the photos from last year’s vacation, arranging the earrings in your jewelry box in color and size order, plus any number of other essential tasks that just can’t wait another second! Now that I’ve finally made it to my desk, I draw a long sigh and get to work. I had decided to go through the MS page by page, hunting for the dreaded head-hopping and ‘too much telling’ sections. So far, I’ve gotten about two-thirds of the way through the first phase: fixing POV issues. Along the way, I’ve stuck ‘Post-It Notes’ in all the spots that I may have to go back to for showing/telling revision. I’m averaging about one ‘Post-It’ every ten pages or so. That means by the time I’m finished with Phase One, there will probably be about thirty ‘Post-Its’, many requiring a major rewrite. Oh joy! The angel on one shoulder tells me to keep plugging along. The finished product will be better than I’d ever imagined and I can look forward to that glorious day when I will see my book in print with a fabulous cover. The little guy hanging out on the other shoulder keeps saying, “That editor doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about; your words are fine the way they are! And don’t you have another closet to clean out?” Well, it’s time for me to stop procrastinating (oh yes, I forgot, blogging is another wonderful way to avoid the MS waiting patiently on my desk) and listen to that angel. Now, whom have you been listening to lately? The angel or the other fellow?

16 comments:

  1. Hi Lis-- thank you for the suggestions on how to proscastinate. Any excuse is a good excuse, is my motto. The rewrite process is painful. Tearing down the words you sweated over to start from scratch...again. Yes, agony and ecstasy. I find that chocolate helps add to the ecstasy. A glass or two (ok, four!) of your favorite beverage helps too.
    Thanks for the words of wisdom.

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  2. So many ways to procrastinate, so little time in which to indulge them, eh? Lis, I have probably turned procrastination into an art form because I have added the nuance of seeking out "worthy" things to do that then just "take up all my time". So I can feel righteous about getting no writing done! It is an insidious pattern to fall into and I know that it is one of my most major 2009 goals to step out of that rut and get on with my work. I know that you are a steady, methodical author and you will - in the end - leave no stone unturned in your quest to perfect your MS so that the editor at TWRP has no choice but to slap that contract on the table, or, rather, attach it to an email and shoot it off to you. I'm looking forward to seeing your email to that effect any day now! Oh, and by the way, GET BACK TO WORK.

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  3. Thanks, Lise! You're sitting there on my shoulder right alongside that angel all the time. I truly appreciate your encouragement and confidence in me. Now what can we do to get YOUR butt over to YOUR manuscript?

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  4. My MS is waiting patiently, rather like Emily Dickinson, alone, solitary, quietly contemplating it's existence. But soon it will be yanked from its little corner and will be getting a good workout. As for edits and revisions? I meant to mention in my initial post that I actually do not have a problem with them. I find it rather like a puzzle that has a few pieces with corners that need to be shaved down in order to fit. On the one project I really revised a good bit, I was, ultimately, very pleased with the result and realized that the people giving me the advice were dead on target. Thanks for your motivational prompts, m'dear.

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  5. Thanks for weighing in, Maria! Glad to hear I'm not the only one suffering through this process.

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  6. Great article, Lis! Sorry it took me so long to get here! I totally feel your pain, and I've come up with a great solution...I just start over. LOL! My first ms took me about 9 months to write and went through about a million revisions over the next two years. I put it away for a long time, thinking it would never see the light of day, but I love the characters so much, and they were calling to me! So, when a small press said they wanted something from me, I said, Phoebe and Benjamin are coming out of the closet...and getting more than just a face lift! Over the last 12 days, I've written 37,000 words - about 2,000 are recycled from the original, so I agree with the "never throw anything away" sentiment! - but the rest is brand new. I actually find it much easier to write a whole new book than edit an existing one. LOL! This may not help in your case, but that's been my approach and it's been successful thus far :)

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  7. Thanks, Jerrica! And congrats on the 37,000 words -- I'm impressed! I don't want to tell you how many times I've already revised this MS but since a real editor is interested now I need to get the job done -- and fast! Gunter and Isabella told me they really want to see themselves in print (and online -- it's an e-pub) so get going, Lis!

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  8. Way to go, Jerrica on the 37,000 words! That is most awesome.

    And Lis, you've hit on a very unique situation. Your CHARACTERS telling you to get back to work! I must have slacker characters - either that or they are off getting into trouble by themselves. I'll have to have a talk with them and see why they're not team players!

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  9. Or your characters are negotiating with another author because they're tired of waiting for you to get their story told! Better get to work, Lise, or they'll jump ship.

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  10. Actually, they have been locked away for their own good. They continue to get into trouble, and since they're embroiled in a BDSM plot, with vampire renegades and evil politicians (I know, I know, what's the difference, right? Bloodsuckers or blood suckers).

    And they're actually enjoying being tied up, so I'm not worried....

    In fact, I guess the torment is actually a GOOD thing in this case!

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  11. My books are 10 times better because I've listened to editors and gone ahead and made the changes they needed, hard as they often have been at the time. It's hard to see it in the thick of it, but looking at the book in hand, it's very evident.

    As for procrastination,

    Deadlines are my friend! It's the only way I can NOT procrastinate. If I don't have an actual deadline from a publisher then I make my own deadline and somehow convince myself that an editor has given it to me - mark in calendar, "'this editor/publishing house' needs WIP by This date" - that might scare you into doing it. :)

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  12. I hear you on the agony of editing! I really should be locked away without any outside influences in order get any work done.

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  13. You know if I didn't love to write so much I'd hate it! Think about all the other things you could be doing with your life except pulling this thing through the process by fits and spurts....oh yeah that's right -you've tried those other things and then immediatly thought what good inspirations they'd make for your story...they're aint no rules in this stupid calling and it sounds like you doing everything right!

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  14. Kwana, Leanna and "Libgirl" -- thanks for weighing in with your experiences.

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  15. Proscastinating? I am the master of prcastinating when it comes to the editing process. I would rather write, write and write. However, once I settle down, get rid of all the household chores and find that there are no other distractions, I do sit down and do my editing.

    I think as writers, we all know that the editing process is a long and lonely one.
    Great commentary on the subject. I find the key to getting the job done is having a deadline.

    Thanks for a most wonderful and insightful post.

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