Editing: Learn to Love It

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher read to us a picture book about the Iditarod, or snow-dog racing in Alaska. I don’t remember the title, but it focused on one of the Huskies and how he overcame challenges. Obviously I don’t remember the plot very well, but I do remember it had a lot of pretty pictures and at the time I thought it was a good story.

Then she told us that the author had re-written it something like well over twenty times before he was able to find a publisher. I distinctly remember my fourth-grader mind thinking, “Wow. That’s so boring. I’d never want to be an author.” 

And who could blame me? I was in the fourth grade. The thought of re-reading a paragraph even twice was painful. Re-reading? Editing? Who needed that?

So I shouldn’t have been surprised, I suppose, to discover after writing my first manuscript that I had absolutely no clue what editing really meant. I thought I did, after all I re-read it and had others look over it for me and changed the phrasing here and there to make it stronger, but all I was really doing was a series of line-edits. I wasn’t re-writing. I was polishing.

Let me tell you now, polishing a first draft (unless it’s some kind of spectacularly AMAZING first draft) is like trying to buff a rock with a sponge. Sure, you’ll get some of the dirt off, but no amount of sponge-love is going to make that sucker smooth and shiny and in the end all you really have is a wet rock.

I don’t want to talk to you about what the right way to edit is, because I don’t think there is just one way to do it and to be honest, I haven’t really perfected the process yet myself. I’m still learning.

I do think, however, that a lot of it has to do with the mindset you go into it with. If you open up your WIP (and I don’t care what draft you’re on) thinking, “Ugh, this is going to suck,” then guess what? It’s going to suck. It’ll take forever, your eyes will probably glaze over a few pages in and you’re not going to catch much. 

Like anything else, it takes the right mindset.

Editing isn’t always fun, in fact especially if you’ve already done a few drafts, it’s often not fun at all. But if you don’t learn to love editing (or at least kinda like it), it’s going to be a very long road ahead. Remember that with every edit you’re making your manuscript better. With every draft, you’re bringing it closer to the shelves.

No, it’s not the easiest process in the world, but it can be exciting. With every change you’re chipping away at that rock to pull out the diamond inside. It’s there, you felt it at the very beginning, when you first began this venture of writing a novel, you just have to find it.

Then, when you reach THE END that final time, you’ll know it’s ready. You’ll feel it, and you can let it go and show that diamond off to the world.

What is your favorite/least favorite part of editing?

2 comments:

Jen said...

I'm not editing yet so I can't really say, but I think I look forward to editing more than finishing my draft. Maybe it's because I'm so close to having it complete and there's a billion things I'm ready to change. But I think it gives you a sort of freedom. The freedom to fix your mistakes, a chance that's a lot harder in real life.
My only concern is, will I ever feel like my book is a gem? Will I ever really come to the point where I cans say it's really finished? Because I think every time I look at it I want to change it. I guess only time will tell!
BTW, could I be on your blog roll? I'm planning on starting one soon and I was going to put you on there :)

Ava Jae said...

@Jen

I've found that I always look forward to editing until I'm about half-way through editing, ha ha. :) It's definitely an important part of the process though, and learning to love it (even after you're starting to hate it) is valuable.

As for your question, I think that's something I struggle with too. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned my perfectionist nature, which makes the whole editing process especially difficult because I don't know when enough is enough.

However! I'm reaching a point in one of my WIP's when I'm actually starting to feel like I'm on the cusp. That being said, I think you WILL know when it's right, even if it isn't until you've re-written it three or four times.

Finally, I'd love to add you to my blog roll. :)

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