Category Archives: How To Edit

Catching My Breath

Sometimes, a writer has to take a break. It may last a few minutes, a few hours, a few weeks… I have discovered this more than once, and each time, it feels like a new revelation. I am learning this yet again.

I’m currently on my third novel set on the imaginary continent of Marda, with a fourth story written out –– a short story, which will probably be an addendum to the third, when it is published (I would say if, but I’m optimistic). Beyond the Owarthan Cordillera is my longest yet, clocking in at just over 90,000 words –– and it may grow longer. I have most of it written, with a few loose ends to tie up and plenty of editing to do. I thought I could jump straight from writing into editing, but it seems like that’s just not happening.

Perhaps writing is like making wine. There’s a part in the process where it needs to sit and ferment for a while so that it can gain different attributes. The author can then come back at a later time with fresh vision and purpose, ready to tackle the beast that is her manuscript. I have never liked this part of the process, because I like to always be creating, always shaping, always churning ideas out onto paper. However, if I don’t allow for it, my final product is a complete and utter mess, and I get burnt out…

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Challenging the Blank/Unfinished Page

At this moment, I am staring back at the blinking line on my word processor. It is not the sole thing on the screen, but it still challenges me –– dares me to change whatever I choose in this mess that is my blood, sweat, and tears.

It’s usually painful for me to work on something that I’ve set aside for several months at a time. Perseverance is no exception. I put it on the back burner towards the end of October to start in on it’s prequel, Bane of Foes, and I have barely glanced at it since then. At last I am giving myself a break from BoF (which still needs tweaking) to take a look at its sister story, and I almost want to cry.

The scenes are too short, the story itself is too short, there are huge gaps in time (a regular issue with my writing), it lacks an ending, there’s endless unanswered questions, I need someone with a red pen to read it all the way through… The list goes on.

How do I ever get out of these editing blues? I’ll tell you. I just get up and do it. There’s no other way. It’s just like paying bills –– you don’t deal with it by expecting someone else to do it, and you certainly can’t ignore it, or it won’t get done. You just have to put on your big kid panties and get going. The first moments are royally painful, but that is the price of anything creative. It’s exactly like the empty page syndrome (as I choose to call it from now on) –– you have to be brave enough to make the first stroke on the white space that is staring at you, daring you to mar its perfect surface with whatever is in your mind at the moment. This brings me to another thought.

In my opinion, waiting for inspiration is one of the worst things for a creative mind. While things do happen spontaneously, such moments are few and far between. To get a constant flow –– whether it’s writing, painting, drawing, or anything else –– the artist must practice her skill on a regular basis. Sure, you’ll produce complete drivel sometimes. It happens. But you will find that as time passes, your work will mature and your mind will be quicker to pass that awkward “waiting” moment. It’s a discipline.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that nothing helps my writing better than deadlines. Mind you, I hate deadlines, but they are the one of the only things that push me to keep going when I don’t feel like it. For example, word count goals do amazing things for my writing.

So… don’t wait for inspiration to hit you on the back of the head and take over. Instead, sneak up on it and take the wheel. You may be happily surprised at what comes out.

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Different Species of Critics…

I hate to admit this, but critics are a valuable resource to anyone in the midst of the writing and editing process. There’s a few different types, and I’ll list the least helpful first:

1. The Yes-Men: These people will read anything and say it’s awesome. At least, it seems that way. They might think they’re helping by encouraging the writer, but without offering any more than a general compliment, a yes-man is not getting into the nitty gritty details that are needed to fine-tune a work.

2. The Haters: Haters are gonna’ hate. It’s a fact. Some folks just want to make everyone miserable, and they’ll say stupid things to push your buttons. Statements like, “This is crap,” or “You suck,” really don’t go deep enough to explain whether the reader is simply being an ignoramus (I love that word), or if they honestly believe that what they’ve just typed is true. Different writers might react to such comments in different ways, but I figure that if my writing has caused a strong reaction, then I must be doing something right… I hope.

3. The Grammar/Spelling Nazis: No one is perfect. Even the grammar and spelling Nazis aren’t perfect (though they won’t always admit it –– and I know because I can be one). I’d like to think that my spelling, at the least, is perfect, but it’s not. I have weaknesses –– terrible ones. My grammar? Ha… right. As much as I appreciate the effort to perfect my spelling and grammar, such things are details that I would ask specific people to address during a later draft. Suppress that inner Grammar/Spelling Nazi!!! However, if I am ever so atrocious with said details that you feel that you’ll go blind from trying to read it, please print out my writings and send them back to me with red pen marks and notes all over them…

4. The Romantics: I run from writing romance. I’ll be honest. It is awkward. It is cliché. It is ridiculous. Yes, I do give in sometimes, but… I try to avoid it. However, now and again, there will be the reader who suggests a pairing, and I cringe in the same way that I would cringe if fingernails were scratched across a chalkboard. Does it have its place? Absolutely. Am I going to force it? No.

5. Anti-Tragedy Readers: Hear me out. I am not necessarily a writer of tragedies, but I do put my characters through hell (Just ask Feann, from Perseverance). If you don’t like it, read a different book. Life is not fair, and my characters are fully aware of that fact…

6. True Critics: These are folks who generally read quite a bit and ask all of the right questions. Things like, “Why on earth did _____ do that?!” or “What about the _____?” or “Who is _____?!” or “I’d like to hear more about _____.” Even comments like, “_____ really acted out of character in that scene.” or “I like how _____ said this.” can be beneficial. Reactions, questions, advice, etc. These are the tools with which a writer can learn exactly how to tweak things to make the story read smoothly and have deeper meaning to the reader.

So the next time you are asked to critique my writing (I can’t vouch for anyone else), here’s my request: Tell me what you like, and then be completely honest with what could be better –– even the enormous plot details. Don’t hold back! I might not go with everything that you say, but I will consider it. Most likely, I will be very happy to have a challenge to work with. Otherwise, the editing process grows stale, and I get ready to throw in the towel… and we don’t want that, now, do we?

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