I'm delighted to welcome my friend and an #EditFoster client, Laurie Bell to the blog today, with her own inspiring take on the nightmare that is editing!
Editing – the nightmare you CAN control.
As a recipient of the dreaded edit letter I am here to tell you… it’s not so bad.
In fact, it can be great. Especially if you are open to making your manuscript the best manuscript it can be. Just like a robot you turn it on for the first time you can either freeze as it takes control of the internet, hide in your safe room as it takes over your house or shed tears and cry, “It’s that Doctor Who episode, not the edit letter, honestly!” while stuffing your face with Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food.
Or, you can look at it like – oh, little Robby the robot needs a few changes to his software before he really comes alive. And hey, I can do that.
Every edit letter or CP email I've ever received I have learnt from.
Sure – that first click can be daunting. Your manuscript is your baby. You've spent so much time on her. Maybe you’ve taken her on one or two playdates with family or friends. Maybe you’ve even shared her with a Critique Partner or two. Opening that email can seem like both hope and heartache in one key stroke.
I always open mine with excitement. I want to hear what an editor or CP thinks. I want to know what grabbed them, what made them laugh and what they didn’t really connect with. I want to read how my manuscript affects or doesn’t affect someone.
And then the fun begins.
I get to break my story down and rebuild her – like the six million dollar woman, she will be stronger and more powerful.
My journey has been a long one and it is still ongoing. But if anything, I'm getting a good process down – it works for me, it may not work for anyone else.
So, let me tell you my most recent journey.
First, I save a copy of my manuscript. That way, I can come back to it if my changes don’t work.
Then I print the edit letter or CP email and highlight everything I want to work with (ideas, thoughts, suggestions, examples…) Sometimes I get CP comments directly onto my manuscript. Again – I print this out to review and make changes directly onto the page.
I do some research – copy or print examples and really drill into my brain what I needed to learn. I then write up character bio sheets – and not just the basics like hair colour, height and so on, I delve deeper into my characters’ history. What was their relationship like with parents, siblings and friends? What makes them happy and sad. How do they react and what do they do when relaxed, stressed, afraid etc. Then I do the same with the worlds I create (I write sci fi so my worlds are as much of a character as my characters)
Then I print my little robot out.
The first cut is always the deepest. So, I go big on the slash and burn, and then repair the damage later. It’s a little like surgery, slash those “extra” characters or the ones that aren’t needed and kill off that opening chapter (or eight).
In my case, it was both chapters and extraneous characters I was cutting… and it was brutal. Metaphorical blood flew, knife hacking and spaceship guns flaring. Pages fell under the onslaught. My delete key is a sharp and unforgiving tool. (Thank god for the undo button. Remember, I have that previous copy saved. So my lovely words are not gone forever).
When you stop for breath, you find half a book is left. But half a book of tighter plot points and direct action.
I reprint my paired down little robot.
Going back over the plot holes, I mark each one with a * and pull out my trusty notebook. I enter each page number down and start to rebuild.
As an aside, I prefer to handwrite my drafts. I don’t get a lot of spare time with work and theatre so I write on the train and at lunchtimes. I hand work my edits too.)
When finished, my manuscript is whole again but needs a lot of work to polish up.
And boy, what a difference. Then I print it again and read it out aloud.
More changes. But at the end – what a beauty. Then, with more trepidation I ship it off to my CPs.
But do you know what, even before I get their positive comments back, I know it’s better.
Don’t be afraid of the slash and burn. You are a writer – writing new material is what you do.
You can rebuild.
You can make it better.
And then it will come to life – and possibly go off and solve crime… who knows, it’s your story! Mine flew off to solve space crimes and get her life back on track!
An editor or a friend can only give you their opinion. But it’s only that, an opinion. It might be a very well informed opinion, but it is still an opinion. Your manuscript is yours. It’s your words, it’s your story.
If you look at the edit letter as an exercise, then you get to play with an open mind and try all sorts of things. See what works and what doesn’t. You will know if it’s better. Listen to what helps you. Ignore what doesn’t.
And make your manuscript shine.
I have three.
I am working on more.
Don’t stop doing what you love.
But heck, give it a try.
It’s not going to kill you. (Your characters maybe, but not you!)
Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen. She writes Science fiction and fantasy for both adults & YA, and has written three manuscripts (all are in the editing / querying trenches).
She is currently working on her new WIP and you can read more of her work on her blog www.solothefirst.wordpress.com
Look for her on Facebook www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell
or Twitter: @LaurienotLori