Friday 26 March 2010

Why Editing Need Not Be A Chore - Guest Post

This is a guest post by Eisley JacobsEisley Jacobs has been writing, since preschool, tentative strokes on paper that made her parents smile with pride. In high school, Jacobs discovered what would become a lifelong love for the written word. It was not until fifteen years later that she began to pursue that love in earnest. Jacobs now writes YA Fantasy, New Adult Fantasy, and Religious Paranormal Fiction. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her children, photography, drawing, singing, American Sign Language, Scrapbooking, BUNCO and much... much more.

What’s playing on my Zune? Worlds Collide by Christine Glass. I don’t usually announce what music is playing because usually people say, “Who?” However, I found it funny this specific song was playing, because it fits my post very awkwardly.

Worlds Collide, “Dark and night entwined a million ways…” Wow! Isn’t that the truth when it comes to writing and editing? You take all this time in this beautifully enchanted world filled with words that please you and make you float away on the clouds… You’re in this happy, peaceful place when you finish, feeling the joy of accomplishment… *happy sigh*

Then it happens. The darkness creeps in to overtake you! Run away! Run away! The editing darkness is coming! The dark and light will collide… and you better be ready -- armed with whiteout and a red pen (or the backspace key, whichever) and armed with understanding that though words will perish, you will emerge the victor.

Scream like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, and then ATTACK!

Insert: *Clash of swords, metal, armor and horse neighing*

Ahem, sorry. Maybe it’s me, but when the process collides with the dark, all these things rocket through my head. No, I am not crazy, why do you ask? In fact, I am sane, usually. I merely see the writing/editing process differently than most.

When you work with certain elements, you must allow them to rest and recapture their identity before picking them up again. They will be stronger and more manageable. This concept also applies to your manuscript. No, really, bear with me here.

You have sacrificed your time and poured out your heart shaping and forming this beautiful manuscript, only to exclaim to the world, “It is done!” It’s perfect in your eyes… right? Well, the elements of perfect are there, but it’s going to take some time in the fire to extract the imperfections and lift the true beauty to the forefront.

However, before you can stick this bad boy (your precious manuscript) into the fire, you must allow it to rest. Let it rediscover its identity, so when you later open it, you will fall in love all over again. Then those imperfections will present themselves to you as you hold it over the fire.

The editing process involves growing and stretching … not only for your manuscript, but for you! If you have distributed beta reads, be prepared for the feedback. Every writer has a differing opinion. If you receive comments from way out in left field, thank the person, but don’t write them off completely. While their opinion may differ, their words have some merit. You still may not agree, but you should at least consider their comments. You might even be wise to incorporate their suggestions as a test. You may be surprised by the results. If nothing else, you will be able to tell your beta, “I tried; it didn’t work.” The point is, even if you think they are completely off their rocker, you will be a magnificent writer if you can appreciate every comment you receive.

Now that you have let the manuscript rest, it’s time to edit. How do you start? Some suggest you read the entire story without touching a single sentence. I would love to challenge that and say NO WAY! Once your manuscript has rested, it’s ready for the delete key; it can totally take it! Don’t waste time rereading while your trigger finger sits there twitching. I don’t recommend you edit your original; always save a copy (“Save as…”, name it using the month and year) and start editing.

As you read, be sure to respond to anything your word processor underlines. But remember, occasionally you are smarter than the software, so don’t accept all suggestions as God’s honest truth. When in doubt, confirm with internet resources – Google, message boards, bookmarked references, etc. While you read, watch carefully for passive phrases and the words just, that, and things. Seldom do these words belong in your manuscript; they slow down the pace and muck up your writing. Usually, you can delete just and that, and the sentence will still make perfect sense. Why is that? Those words are fillers. With things it’s a little more complicated. Usually we use things because the reader already knows what we are referring to. However, like just and that, things to me screams “Blah blah blah.” There is almost always a better word than things.

Adverbs are another story, or maybe I should say they belong in another story, not yours. Adverbs tend to scream TELLING rather than SHOWING. Have you ever received the comment, “Can you show me instead of tell me?” This probably had an –ly adverb in it. You can say a lot with an –ly word, but sometimes we, the reader, want to experience it. She walked down the hall carefully. That doesn’t show me anything. Did she dart around the hall missing the creaky floorboards? Did she pause at the doors of each room, peeking around or under them? Use sights, sounds, and smells to SHOW us instead of adverb us.

Editing can be a long, laborious process, but it can be beautiful. Imagine what awaits you on the other side of the fire… beauty.


Sam said...

Wonderful post - there is something about how you describe the editing process that really strikes a chord with me.

Eisley Jacobs said...

I am so glad! It's a fun process when you can adopt the right attitude and goals :)

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