The Writing Process: Editing
Remember that Jameson and water I mentioned in my Actually Writing post? This is where I pay for it. I am TERRIBLE with typos. Especially when I use a touch screen tablet instead of a keyboard. Especially when I'm drinking Jameson instead of Caribou Coffee.
But editing isn't all copy-edit grammar and typo fixes. When I start to edit and re-write I first like to take a step back from the work, for at least a few days. Then when I'm ready to really dig into it I tell myself, "Okay. Now make it awesome." That's all the editing and re-writing really is: taking something you've done and ramping it up to the next level.
That's where my beta-readers and writing group come in. Without them, I'm flying blind. Until my writing sees the light of day, I truly don't know if I have a dud or dynamite. Fortunately, I got some good feedback. "Good" meanwhile, "Hey, this is pretty good," but also, "Here's where you could make it better." That second kind of feedback is the really good stuff. If all I was looking for was a "Good job!" I'd just have family and close friends read it. You know, the kind of people who will tell you that everything you write is just wonderful, amazing, Hugo-worthy masterpieces. I'd never get published, but I'd never get my feelings hurt either. Now, I won't say that kind of feedback is worthless. I think we all need an ego-boost every once and a while. However, if you're looking to get published and maybe one day get paid for what you write, it's not really helpful. What every serious author needs is other good authors who are willing to tell the truth. "This could work if..." "This doesn't work at all." "This part fell flat." "I didn't see much of an arc." "Where's the hook?" Sometimes, it hurts. Sometimes it is demoralizing and crushing and maybe even enough to convince you to give up, almost. But listen, if you want to write you have to have thick skin and the professionalism to see critiques for what they are: other people doing their best to make you a better writer. This real, honest, sometimes harsh feedback is invaluable in the writing process.
If you don't have a writing group that can do this for you, get one. If you don't know where to start, I recommend Litreactor.com. It's an online workshop full of talented writers who will provide that brutally honest but constructive criticism necessary to forge your writing into something better. If you have a writing group that does that for you, great. If not, get one. Now on to the next step, actually listening to them.
Not everyone who comments on your work will be brimming with good ideas. There's plenty of bad advise and some feedback will be off the mark. But watch for trends. Keep an keen eye out for different readers giving you similar advise, either on your style or about a specific piece of writing. Because, let's face it. This isn't about writing one story. It's about getting better with every story you write. Sure, good feedback will help you tweak your current work, but great feedback will make all your future writing better.
Re-writing is writing. Editing is writing. Cutting out what doesn't matter is writing. Like a sculpture with a chisel, chip and hammer and polish until whatever story you started with is the best it can possibly be. Editing might not be as fun as dumping that initial flurry of imagination onto paper, but it is required work. Let me phrase the first sentence of this paragraph a little differently: If you're not really re-writing, you're not really writing.
So I re-read my story. I read it backwards. (Seriously, it's a good technique.) I hunted out those typos with a little (maybe A LOT of help) from my friends. I carefully considered each critique and took the advise nine times out of ten. I re-wrote. A little spit and polish and I'm feeling pretty damn good about this little tale I created.
Now on to the real soul-crushing work: Submitting.
What are your tricks and tips for taking that rough draft and turning it into a final draft? Comment below!