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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Key To Successful Editing

Once the rough draft of your book is complete you may think the hard part is behind you, you may even think you're done. Think again. Successful editing is the key to a successful book. But then what is the key to successful editing? Ah, there is the catch. It is both simpler than you might think and much harder than you might imagine.

The key to successful editing is detachment. It does seem like a simple thing does it not? If you've tried it then you know it is anything but simple. Detaching from their novels is the hardest thing a writer has to do. While creativity is definitely needed you must be practical at this stage.

Just like your children, you have to prepare your novel for the hardships of the outside world. This means you have to take a good hard look at it, see where it is weak, and make it stronger. It will sometimes feel perfect just the way it is. Trust me, it isn't. To be truly objective you must distance yourself from it and approach it as though it isn't your baby.

Time is a wonderful way to become detached. After a month of letting that first draft sit you can come back to it with a fresh perspective and probably some new ideas. I'm not able to wait that long but not everyone needs to. Some can achieve the same level of detachment in a week, some might take a few months. You'll know what feels right to you. I have a little trick I use. When I come back to it I read it as though I'm an acquisition editor considering buying the manuscript. Editors look at things with a very different perspective. They're looking for a reason to say no, a reason it doesn't work, or isn't good enough. That's the way I approach it.

Hopefully some of this helps you! For some related advice by Writer's Digest check out this link: http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/07/08/TheSecretToWritingPublishingThatShouldBeTapedToYourWall.aspx

14 comments:

  1. This advice really clicks with me, Heather. I had what I can only call a developmental experience at the PNWA conference last week. After listening to a panel of editors and then pitching to an editor, I suddenly 'got' the distinction between what an editor looks for and what an agent looks for -- at least in an overview way. Editors are more specific about how a book functions, more oriented to the interwoven structure that supports the flow of words, (and more likely to instantly see how to 'correct' the flow if it gets off track, I think). Of course voice comes first, but that's almost a pre-thought to their process. When I put myself into that frame of mind, it's instantly distancing and my attachment to my novel lessens dramatically. Thanks! You helped me crystallize these observations into something really useful.

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  2. It is hard to let go, but it's definitely for the best!

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  3. I'm glad it helped so much Linda! Great point about how editors see things and what they're looking for. Thanks for sharing that!

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  4. Very true Candyland. I have a lot of trouble letting go for long but it helps so much!

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  5. I've left mine alone several times and come back to it and think "this is such crap." I then get it to the point where I like it, and leave it again. I'm just waiting for the time when I don't come back and think it's crap--hasn't happened yet.

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  6. Great post! I agree that detachment is key... and very tricky. I wait six weeks, which typically gives me enough breathing room. Even then, I'm still pretty attached!

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  7. Oh, yes, going away for a while. Not thinking about it, not reading anything from it. After a month or two, you'll come back with a fresh mind. The first few pages don't work, and you see why now. Maybe you need to get rid of a character, a whole chapter, something. You'll see it after a long vacation from your manuscript.

    Great post!

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  8. That's great Samantha. I wish I could wait that long! I can get close but I found that I'm always really attached. I just have to read as if I didn't write it. Once the red pen is put away, then it's my baby again!

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  9. Exactly Lorelei! It's amazing what a little detachment will reveal. I'm glad you liked the post. :-)

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  10. Time definitely gives me perspective. Critique partners are awesome, too. Mine often find things I miss--from little things to big story issues.

    Have a great day! :)

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  11. Hi Dawn, critique partners are fantastic for that aren't they? I wouldn't trade mine for their weight in chocolate, seriously, I wouldn't! That's how much they mean to me!

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  12. Heather, this is such a great post. It's not always easy to become detached. I like the way you compare it to children...so true! No one it when something negative is said about their child. True with a novel, but necessary!

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  13. Thank you so much Julie. The negative parts are never easy to hear but like you said, they bring about progress and can improve the novel if we know which one's to really listen to and which to discard!

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  14. So true..and yet, so hard to actually DO!
    I'm really glad you brought this up, though, because I'm at the editing stage in a project, and this post helps a lot.

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