Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tips For Writers Being Edited

Hey, my first post in like, forever! I know, I've been gone a long time. But you didn't really think I was gone, did you?

Anyway, I'm popping in to let everyone know that 1) I'm not gone, 2) the goals I set in the last post didn't happen but that doesn't mean they won't sometime in the future, and 3) I'm here posting because I'm now part of YPublish at BYU (writing club). And in all of my 7 years of writing experience, I'm here to provide a few tips on taking edits from other people.

1. Come Willing To Change.

This is the first and cardinal rule of editing. You don't go to an editing club or session to have someone tell you that your work is perfect and that you don't need to change it. You go so that people can tell you what they think doesn't work, what characters seem boring, what stuff seems unlikely or improbable, and whether your story is wrong in a million different ways. If you're looking for validation, take your manuscript to your family and friends. If you're looking to make your manuscript better, take it to an editing club with your mouth sewn shut and a notepad in hand.

2. Take Notes.

Haha, that was a seamless segue. Anyway. . . 

The point of editing is that you clean up your writing and make it shinybright. And sometimes that first draft is not so shinybright. In fact, it probably looks terrible, so terrible with so many things wrong with it that looks like the Hindenburg to other writers (and yes, I've seen and edited a lot of Hindenburgs. They are not fun to edit because you really just pity them and everything they'll have to change).

There may be, in fact, so many things wrong with your manuscript that you have to take notes, yes notes, on what other people liked about it, didn't like about it, and thought you should change. Take notes. People that sit down during an editing session and just stare while getting editing recommendations aren't committed to changing their work and making it better; they just file the recommendations away in the back of their head to be forgotten later, and that really irritates editors because they feel like their time is being wasted.

For my religious audience, let me put it this way: if you got a one on one life session with God about how you could clean up your act and make it to heaven, would you sit there and stare at him while he was giving personalized advice, or take notes? Precisely.

3. Don't Defend Your Work.

This one is an instinct with most writers because their story is the precious. (Yup, Gollum reference.) You've worked long and hard over this manuscript, and it's only instinctive that you want to protect it when people start taking it apart. It's important that you override this instinct, because I guarantee your 1st, 2nd, 7th, and 16th drafts have flaws, and in order to make your story into something that can be published, you need to hush up, listen to others point out its flaws, and take notes so you can make it better.

I also make this a point because when writers defend their work, things can get messy. Editors will ask a question about your book or plot or a hole thereof. You will try to explain or defend it and your answer will be inadequate, and the editor will ask another question about the mythos and you will try to explain it and the cycle will repeat itself until someone's feelings get hurt.

So to avoid this, don't defend your work. Listen to the critique, take notes, mull the advice over and think about it and you might actually find that your editor is right (sometimes). Your work will be better, critique will go faster, and editors will feel like you respect them enough to listen to them avidly. And if it turns out that they aren't right then that's okay. If they were wrong you don't have to change it and it's not going to kill you.


EDITING IS HARD. That's your conclusion. That's really what it boils down to. It's hard and it hurts to change stuff and it isn't easy and sometimes you will do some crying or you'll want to tuck the manuscript away and forget about it.

Welcome to the world of writing.

Just like any other field, it's got its fun parts and its hard parts. The writing is the fun part; the editing is the hard part. That's just how it is. And if you want to get the most out of it, the best way to do it is to do both parts, regardless of how hard the editing part can be. At the end of the day you'll be able to look back on your work, see how far it's come from its first draft, and you'll have earned the right to be rejected by publishers because your query letters suck. Which is something we'll get to in another post.