Thursday, March 22, 2012

Editing is Hard Work - How Do You Know Your Work Is Good Enough

Sarah Duncan has been running a great series of posts on editing. The latest one is here. The big thing is that editing is hard work. I can hear my inner student SIGH. I hate hard work or at least I did. I have learned to love it. Back when I mentioned I was on the 27th draft of August Rock people were amazed so I outlined my process (here). It's long and there are no short cuts. But in the past I would try and find them...The result was that I short changed myself and didn't get the result I wanted (an agent, a publishing deal and an audience for my stories).

Look at it this way...if you want muscles you need do strength training (unless you are still growing when it appears that food and sleep are the only requirement - casts glance at sleeping teens). If you want to be a concert pianist then you practice. If you want a publishable book you have to write, rewrite and edit. I know there may well be a few cases out there where the first draft was flawless but they are rare. So if publication is your goal embrace the work.

For make no mistake it's work and at times I rebel against this. I am lazy at heart. I don't want to read the damn thing 300 hundred times. I don't what to check my verbs, adverbs, adjectives....I don't want to look at each chapter, scene, paragraph and sentence. But I must if I want readers to love the story and not feel the writing. I make sure that each word, each sentence and so on is there for a reason - and just because I like isn't good enough. As Donald Maass reminds again and again in his books...tension is the key to page turning quality...this of course is another matter altogether but while you are examining your writing so closely that should be in the back of your mind....more on this later.

So coming back to that do you know your work is good enough? Does every word in your story carry its weight and move your story forward? Each sentence? Paragraph? Scene? Chapter?

Now be honest...have you looked that closely? If not check out Sarah's posts because they are a good starting point.


Anonymous said...

I always feel you can overwork the editing bit and end up losing some of the spontaneity in your writing. As to when you know you've got it right - do we ever? I've gone back over things later and thought, I could have done that bit better, or said this instead. Always difficult known when to draw the line.
Kit Domino.

Jenny Harper said...

Good blog Liz. Funnily enough, I enjoy editing. I really like the sense of polishing, tightening, strengthening. Loved the trailer btw - makes me want to go there.

liz fenwick said...

I agree Kit, it's hard to know but I in my lazy state could draw the line too early :-)

Jenny- I enjoy it now but it has taken my years to reach this point!


Russ said...

I find the most important part is to have some time away from your ms so you can see it with fresh eyes. Editing can be frustrating but it is rewarding when you see the improvements!

liz fenwick said...

Russ - you are so right...time away is hugely helpful and the longer the better!


Morton S Gray said...

Thank you for this - very useful as I struggle through my edits for RNA NWS! Mx

liz fenwick said...

A pleasure. Good luck with the NWS Morton

Kate Lord Brown said...

Oh, it never ever feels 'done' - a book just has to finish :) Editing is where the real work comes in, and where the work shines. Tough but satisfying!

D.J. Kirkby said...

It's nice to read that although you once hated editing you have come to enjoy it despite it being hard work.I like editing too because it is nice to see my writing change for the better though I usually need a little guidance to make me see a clear path. I am off to follow the links in your post now.

liz fenwick said...

Kate....some days it feels endless!

DJ - I need help too but there are something that have finally sunk but haven't reached the place where I don't make the mistakes...I can just see them after I've made them :-)