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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Conquering the Fear of Editing

Like most writers, I used to cringe at the very thought of editing one of my manuscripts. But now, it's my happy place. Out of the entire process from inspiration to finish, editing is the part I love the best. The writers among you in particular may wonder how I reached this magical place. I used to be a pantser: one who writes by the seat of their pants, letting inspiration guide them in whatever direction it chose. That can be a fun way to write, but it is a nightmare to edit such a book. And I say 'can be a fun way to write', because it can also be a headache. I used to get stumped all the time, lose forward momentum, get turned around, and all manner of other snares. It generally took me a year to write a book that way, and almost as long to edit it.

Then I attended a writer's retreat under the tutelage of the fabulous William Bernhardt (bestselling thriller author). Bill made me write an outline on a book I had already completed. It seemed silly until I finished it and realized all the plots holes and issues the outline revealed. And just like that, I went from a pantser to a plotter.

These days I write an outline before starting a new book. I follow it loosely, allowing the story to grow organically. Now, it takes me three to four months to write a book and only a month to edit it. Not only does outlining help me write faster, better, it takes the fear out of editing.

10 comments:

  1. Heather, I could not agree more with this post. I too outline and it helps with the entire process and makes editing so much fun. And for Bill... the BEST instructor for sure. Anyone who wants to learn how to write should go to one of his seminars. Thank you so much for a great post!!

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    1. I couldn't agree more, Karlene, Bill is fantastic! :)

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  2. Outlines are the skeleton of your novel. If you are a pantser, at least know the end of your novel. I mean, how will you know the journey is over if your destination is unknown? :-) I just did a 3 day Sci Fi Con, and man, am I tired!

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    1. I love the way you put that, Roland. That's exactly what it feels like, the skeleton. I hope the con was fantastic!

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  3. Heather, you are so right on. I've been working on my novel for a looooong time because I wrote on the seat of my pants. Now I wish I would've outlined it, however, I didn't know any better. Now I do. My next book will definitely be first research and then the outline (vise-versa) because like you say, the editing process for a panster is horrific. I've learned that the hard way! Thanks for this post.

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    1. I was in the same boat, D. with my first few novels so I feel for you! Hang in there, it gets so much easier from here on out.

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  4. I love the editing stage, it's the fine tuning of the MS, the part where the whole things pulls together. :-)

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    1. That's exactly how I feel, Kate!

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  5. Oooo! I love editing! (Um, crazy thing for a writer to say, I'm aware...) But to me, it's where things get fun... it's when I get to put the finishing touches on things... make it more artistic... descriptive... vivid. It's like baking a cake and coming to the decorating part! Plus, I believe it's always easier to edit than stare at a blank page. Ha!

    Also, outlining: YES! I went through the same realization process... now-a-days, I don't think I'd ever go back to being a pantser! (HA--"pantser!" So funny!... Also, my spell check keeps trying to change that to "panther." Heh!)

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    1. I think it's a very smart thing for a new writer to say, Julie! I feel the same way about a blank page. It's intimidating where editing to me is fun. LOL! You've gotta love spell check. ;)

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