Editing is going to be the death of me. I am thoroughly convinced of this. I don’t even know how many hours I’ve spent editing my novel, over and over again, and every time I look at it, it seems as if I’ve missed something, a comma here, a period there. And recently I finished yet another copy edit to fix typos that were originally overlooked.
Even though I had an editor help with the whole editing and proofreading process, it amazes me how many errors I still found. I guess when you read through a manuscript that many times, the words start to jumble together in your head after a while. Being a writer, I am never satisfied with my work. Then again, maybe that’s just me. I always seem to find something wrong with my writing. Eventually there comes a time when I need to tell myself to stop editing and just submit the darn thing.
Being a writer is not just about writing. You have to play the role of reader, editor, proofreader, critic, and marketing specialist. Marketing is a nemesis all on its own. I’ll get into that later. But by far, I think the hardest and most stressful part of writing, at least for me, has been the whole editing process.
Do you remember in school when you’d get a paper back with all that lovely red ink on it marking every error that your teacher wanted you to correct? The dreaded red ink! Cut this. Delete that. Move this paragraph here. It always looked like someone bled all over your paper. That’s what editing feels like. That red ink of death is what kills your characters, deletes that magnificent paragraph that you worked so hard on, and reminds you how imperfect you are.
Although this process has caused me to rip out my hair on several occasions, I have learned from it. First off, editing makes a story flow smoother. It makes language consistent and brings out an author’s style. Secondly, even though that paragraph might have been the most poetic thing I’ve ever written, I have to admit that the scene is much better without it. Finally, editing has taught me to be critical of my work. If it isn’t absolutely necessary in the story, cut it. If the sentence doesn’t flow, fix it. And if it just flat out sounds bad, get rid of it.
One piece of advice I was given, that has actually been really helpful, is to read the manuscript from back to front to check for proofreading errors. That way you’re not reading the story, you’re simply checking for typos and grammatical errors. When I was told this, I though it was crazy, but it works. I caught many errors by following this advice.
Another thing that helped me was this amazing book called Self Editing for Fiction Writers. Best investment I ever made. I happened to stumble upon it during a weekly book run to Barnes and Noble with my family. Browsing through the writing reference section, the title immediately caught my eye. I pulled it off the shelf and skimmed through it. Bingo! Just what I was looking for. Definitely a book worth reading for any writer. I highly recommend it.
All in all, this whole process had been a learning experience. If I’ve learned nothing else from all of this, the one thing I will take with me is that writing, good writing, is excruciatingly hard, but if you’re serious about and dedicated to it, the end product is well worth the effort. So keep writing, celebrate those little successes, and don’t give up. All of the blood, sweat, and red ink is worth it!
L.M. Nelson, Author of Scrubs