Friday, October 15, 2010

Editing for Eternity

By Rachel

Every Friday I sit down and I start to write my weekly DGLM blog, and after writing and revising, revising some more, and then perhaps one more edit, I'm ready to send it off to Lauren (who'll look over it - sometimes suggest more edits - and then post to the blog). When I read my blog posts, I usually think I could've said something more interesting, or would rather have touched on an issue in a different way, so if it was up to me, I'd be revising my blog entries for hours before I turned in the final version (which is why I never start writing them until late Friday morning - so I'm forced to meet a deadline).


Blog posts are one thing, but thinking about the endless self-editing that goes with book writing exhausts me! If I ever had the guts to sit down and write a novel, I know I'd never be able to hand in a finished manuscript because I'd want to rewrite every page, and then make edits on the edits. Take a look at Jean Hannah Edelstein's Guardian article on the dangers of "overcooking" books, and if you're a compulsive self-editor, you'll relate easily to this one.


So, how many times have you revised your manuscript? And, are you ever really satisfied with the end result?

5 comments:

  1. When it comes to blog posts, part of their appeal is that you can invite comments to further the discussion, or you can expand on your perspective in a follow-up post.

    With print, I see your point. Once it's turned in and published, it's out there. No going back. No reset button. So the urge to self-edit is strong.

    But there comes a time when a writer need to be confident enough in their abilities and secure enough in their role to say, "I'm done. Any further edits will only be at the behest of my agent or editor."

    I finished my first picture book manuscript in August. After a September SCBWI conference, I joined a critique group. I'm happy with the feedback I got from the group, and made a few minor adjustments. Now I'm in the process of adding in a few art notes here and there before going into the query phase. For me, it's done... until someone else says otherwise.

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  2. I think it's one of the arts of the agent to be able to see when a ms needs to go back to author for revision and when it's ready to submit--not necessarily that it doesn't need revision but that it's at the point where said reworking should be overseen by the editor who buys (and, hopefully, loves) the ms. This type of judgement was one of the reasons I chose my agent. BTW, I was going to try to revise this comment to add a cooking metaphor but, honestly, life is short and I've got a new ms to revise :) Still, a useful post and thanks for the link. - Stasia

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  3. I think one of my biggest issues with blogging is that I feel the desire to edit after I post. I'll think of something witty I could have said or worry that something I did say will look like an attempt to appear profound that failed, but I feel like it's dishonest to go back and edit now that it's been put out there for the world to see (which is really silly unless people have already started commnting). It's unfortunate that it can keep me from posting; if I don't feel I have the time to sit down and write something good, I don't post at all. It's a habit I need to overcome.

    With novels, I think I've become aware of over-editing, but also have the comfort of knowing that nobody has to see my manuscript until I'm done and comfortable with it (one of the nice things about being unpublished). I can take as long as I want right now. I usually try to let a month or so pass between my final edit and when I reread it one last time. Time to cleanse the palate, if you will. If it's stale and dry, I can tell I've overedited and can pull up an older draft to try to inject some of the voice I've lost back into the work.

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  4. I don't torture myself over my blog posts - just one read-through and a spell check. Being no different from a personal essay, really, I don't want to get caught up in over-thinking and self-doubt.

    When it comes to my fiction, however, it's a different story. I subscribe to the Sol Stein method of triage - taking care of the big issues first, then working my way down to line-editing. That takes me through my manuscript three times for structural/plot issues and characterization, then twice more for line-editing. The fifth go 'round, I read it aloud to myself and go back to extinquish unnecessary words that have slipped through, every frakking adverb I can part with and any purple prose lurking about.

    If I were to just line-edit again and again and again, I'd have to go through it forever. I'd never stop. This way I have a planned finish line.

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  5. It's always good to know when to stop editing. if you find you've changed something and then changed it back to the way it was originally - then it's time to move on!

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