Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What I'm learning from a Professional Edit


It’s brutal.

I have moments when I want to scream at the monitor (what do you mean Why again?) and give up writing forever. Going over edits and doing rewrites from a professional editor is not for the thin-skinned indeed.

I thought I had most of the biggies down. Come to find out—I don’t. So I thought I would share with you what I’ve learned thus far about writing. I warn you. It isn’t pretty.

1. Too many Similes. Oh and I thought I was writing pretty when I said his Adams apple bobbed like a yo-yo. I thought the more I used the more creative I was— like writing literary style. Wrong. They clutter the writing and sometimes don’t even go with the character and what they know.

2. Heavy on the stage directions. My characters like to tip their head, or lean closer or frown or raise their brows a little too much in some scenes rather than let the dialogue or action do it.

3. Put events in order as they happen. This should be an easy one—I’m logical, after all. But how many sentences did she point out where I said, “She smiled when she saw him coming across the yard.” Instead of—“When he came across the yard, she smiled at him.” Logical, right? Should be.

4. Fragments. Oh, I have pure romance with these. Love short fragments. My voice. My style. Me. Wrong. They get a little annoying when there are too many. And yeah, watch the repeating and rhyming words. My My.

5. Those crying blues. The Tears. My MC is quite the sobbing whiner and I didn’t even realize what a turn-off that is. Who wants to cheer her on when those tears shine and glitter and sparkle and roll down her cheeks so much?? Not me or the reader for sure. So I get that part now.

6. Let the reader see what the character sees. I’d have someone walk into a store, start talking to a clerk and the reader has no clue what they see—is it a man or a woman or an old lady or a hot looking creature. I didn’t give much of a clue and it is disorientating.


I’ve lost 1000 words already and I am not even half-way through. Is this fun? Ask my husband. Not. (so allow me this fragment please.)

But yes, I will grudgingly admit, my book is a whole lot better already.
Stay tuned. More to come. Hopefully, I will have a book left when I’m done.

So have I scared you away yet from taking that next step?
I hope not. Are you as guilty as me in any of these areas?

54 comments:

Susan Roux said...

Wow, Terri, such honesty! You're on the right track. If it was easy, everyone would do it, wouldn't they? Look at what your editor is teaching you? Rewriting is tough. Have a glass of wine and try to enjoy the process. It will be worth it in the end...

Good luck!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Lol, Terri! I'm in the same boat right now (and yes, that was a metaphor). My editor pointed out how much my characters ask questions. What? Questions? How is that possible? Let's just say they stand out to me now like a sore thumb (a simile AND a cliche in your honor). :)

Diane said...

Honestly, it sounds completely and totally painful, BUT!!!!!! I am completely and totally excited by what is going to come out of this. I can feel this was money well spent for you. :O)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Editing, blech. I think I'll go cry in my soup about it--tears like waterfalls. :D

It's like extracting teeth, but it's worth it.
~ Wendy

Kathryn Magendie said...

It's all going to make your writing stronger -- because you'll begin to see/feel/note these things as instinct actions while writing - not that they won't creep in sometimes, but far fewer!

I love fragments, but I suppose I offset them by longer sentencing - it's all about rhythm, like a piece of music.

Next time you write, your brain will remember these things!

Joanne Sher said...

Soooo hard, I know. I have a lot of the same issues- but my characters SIGH way too much rather than crying (LOL of course "I" sigh too much too, so that could be part of the problem). Not fun for sure - but it WILL make your book better. Praying you through.

Shirley said...

Well, you are a stronger woman than I. If I ever finish my WIP, it will be for me only, I guess. All of the struggles I've been reading about are too much for this ol' gal! I know you'll do it!!! You have the gumption!

Lin Floyd said...

any kind of critiquing is a challenge to accept and use to improve but necessary. Thanks for sharing your anguish and hot tears splashing down your cheeks. lolQ

Carolyn said...

It's hard now, but the next time around, you will think first and have fewer rewrites later. Money well spent, I think. I can see all of these edits in what I'm writing...so your pain is my gain! Thank you for that! Keep going, it will be worth it! No more tears...except when the phone rings with that call!

paulgreci said...

It sounds like an incredibly productive time for you. I guess sometimes that old workout saying, "no pain no gain" rings true.

Kenda said...

Thanks so much for sharing these things. Helps us all to take another look at our mss to see where we can make improvements, too... You're on the right track, don't give up!

Saumya said...

You are so brave and inspiring for doing this and sharing it with all of us. My skin isn't even thick enough to handle it yet! These are some great tips and I'm happy that your editor is very thorough :)

Sassy Granny ... said...

It sounds a lot like the way we live (or ought to live) out our lives, especially the "let the reader (viewer) see what the character (you/me) sees". Talk about authenticity!

Great stuff, friend. I hope & pray the end result is a published work, and EVEN a movie!

Kathleen

KelliGirl said...

Terri,
I feel your pain! You are a courageous and strong writer. I'm praying for perseverance and an extra covering of grace for you today.

Keep on going. You can do it.

Love ya,
Kelli

Amie B said...

i had an agent once who requested my full, then gave me this kind of feedback. it was better than paying for editing services!

my MC cried alot too, and i realized how right the agent was - who would root for such a cry baby?

of course, i did have a point to all the crying...i wanted to show how strong she had become by the end of the MS. but there are other ways to show weakness than by crying.

i hacked off almost 10,000 words in that revision.

saved my ms.

*i hope*

Rhonda said...

Wow! This isn't for the faint of heart, is it? Not sure how brave I am...

Heidi Willis said...

I'm working my way through my crit partners' critiques of my WIP and it has been brutal. But really good. Humility is a gift best learned early in the writing process. :)

It only hurts at first. When you read the critiques it hurts, but when you start working on them and see how much stronger your story gets, it's really fun!

Julie Arduini said...

Thank you for your transparency. I know my characters have an eye rolling issue I need to work on.

I look forward to the day and I believe you will stand on a stage accepting an award and remember what it took to get there. I can't wait to read that post, too!

Lynn said...

Sounds like you are learning a lot Terri. I'm envious actually! I know you'll be a better editor of your own work when completing this project. I read a best-selling literary novel recently full of similies. It can be confusing knowing what is the right way to edit for sure, but you'll get your own style coming through even with edits. Love hearing about your journey. Very honest and inspiring.

Claus said...

As you know, I'm not a writer. Never have tried to even write a diary/journal! But I am a reader, and after this entry, I've been thinking on how much writers go through! Those pointers you now notice, one do need as a reader, not only to understand the story, but to love it, and hence, love the book and love the author. Hang in there! It must be difficult, but in the end you will have learned a lot, and next time, things will come easier.
have a wonderful day!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, Terri. I relate. Especially the fragment issue. My son, who has a degree in English comp, tears his hair out at my use of fragments. I think there is a place for them, if used correctly. But perhaps I overdo. Perhaps.

I'm proud of you for following through this fight and not giving in to despair. God is proud, too.

Love you,
Jen

Melissa Marsh said...

Wow, Terri, you're really digging deep into the manuscript. But after this, the next manuscript you write won't be nearly so brutal to edit because you will have learned a great deal about how to improve your writing from this one. :-)

Shirley said...

I didn't mean to sound so negative earlier...sorry. I just see how diligent you have been to this, and you have given me a clearer picture of what's behind the 'non-romantic' version...the real sweat and blood of writing. I just realized I don't have the grit that you do. I don't believe I could endure this part of the writing process.

Katie Ganshert said...

Wow! I know it's painful, but just think how much you are learning and growing!! Am I nuts if this post made me WANT to get a professional edit??

Jody Hedlund said...

Don't you just love editors? They can tell it like it is without the worry of hurting our feelings. Crit partners might have noticed the same things, but don't want to be too tough! So horray for tough critiques!

Jan Cline said...

I don't know what would be harder, being the editor or the author on the other end. You'll get through it with flying colors. I can tell by the way you have understood the editor's challenges.

Julie Jarnagin said...

I'm waiting on the edits from my Heartsong editor. I'm nervous!

Deb Shucka said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Terri. I'm a lover of fragments and figurative language as well. I wish you clear energy for the revisions, and a lighter heart. You'll not only have a book, you'll have a better book, which is what you wanted in the first place. I can hardly wait to see the results.

JW said...

Oh my goodness! I do all those things you mentioned, so I really thank you for sharing your painful lessons with the rest of the world. I am scared. lol But it's worth it, right? And, as an author, you are allowed to keep some things of your style, right? I hope so, because just from reading your blogs I can tell you have a style I relate to and get. Keep forging ahead, you are doing great!!! :)

Tamika: said...

Terri, I can't tell you what a blessing it is that you shared this! My manuscript is dripping with these same flaws!

My MC is always blubbering, and crying about something~ ack!

I know that you will have more than a book left, but a beautiful book.

Clarissa Draper said...

These are amazing! What a great editor you have. Especially the WHY question. Your character may not know the answer but I think the writer should.

CD

Jolene Perry said...

And here it is! Just like you promised! Well said.

Patti Lacy said...

Such a fine blog!!
Even on the book I just sold to Bethany, I had a professional edit, THEN the grilling by agent.

It's worth every dollar.

P

Jill said...

I'm almost certainly as guilty as you with most of these. I can't stand to write fragments, however. I'm too much of a grammar grump. I don't mind them when others write them, but, yo? No! I want to torture myself with professional edits. My husband told me I better get a part-time job. :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

Breaking my elbow was less painful than having an editor work on my manuscript. You have spoken a universal truth: it hurts, but the end result is worth the pain.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Terri, I'm so glad you're doing this. It sounds as if you were at the perfect point to *really* benefit from a pro editor. Your attitude is great.

Jill Kemerer said...

Thanks for sharing the biggies with us! It's hard to know what to keep, what to toss, what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong. You're very brave for not only getting the edit and taking the advice, but for sharing the experience with us.

Can't wait to read the new version!

Kenda said...

Terri--just another note to let you know I left something for you on my blog :-)

Sally said...

I have been on the editing side of term papers, thesis papers and dissertations. The material is good. You have to let go of thinking that what is being changed is 'no good' because it is GOOD your just moving it up to BETTER and BEST.

Hang in there, you're doing great.

Karen Lange said...

Appreciate you sharing about your journey with this. Growing is pain, but wow, how much better are we for it. Cheering you on!
Blessings,
Karen :)

K9friend said...

It sure does help to have a pair of fresh eyes look at a manuscript. It's often embarassing how many things they notice, when I could have sworn the piece was letter perfect!

Pat
www.critteralley.blogspot.com

Angie Ledbetter said...

They don't lie when they say the original writing of the ms is the EASY part. You can do it! Yes, you can.

Me? I love fragments. Hugs/prayers, now get back on that ms! :D

Dawn Simon said...

Great tips. I bet your manuscript will be beautiful when you're done. :)

We all have things to improve in our writing, so don't get discouraged!

Carmen said...

Wow Terri! You are putting so much work into this book. Then again, I'm sure it will be well worth it in the end. Like I've said before...I can't wait to read it when it's published. I am really developing a deep respect for writers! It's a really hard job on so many levels!!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Terri..can I join you in screaming? After reading your previous post I have decided to go for a professional editor before I submit my Manuscript to a publisher. That is after I am through with the edits.
I am guilty of fragments and similies.

Jen said...

Right now I'm taking my editing slow, it's such a mess they'd be paying me to send it BACK! I will admit each step during the writing process has been one I've been scared of, it's not easy going into the unknown and I'm willingly jumping into fire.

I've enjoyed every leap of faith and when the time comes I'll muster up the courage to jump in the fire again.

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

Terri,
Sounds like a painful journey. But I can sense your strength and courage. You will succeed!

Doris

Jessica Nelson said...

I'm definitely guilty! Ouch. You're being strong though and that's a good thing. I did notice the abundance of similes but forgot to say something. I agree that you could take those out. However, don't chop all your fragments! I never noticed them AT ALL which makes me think that they probably are a part of your voice. :-)
These are all great tips for us. I know I get things out of logical sequence too. Erghh.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Wow, it's like exercise and she's your personal trainer. It's going to be SO worth it in the end!

But yeah, I've gotten better but I used to have my characters roll their eyes, dart glances, meet gazes, etc.. Way too often. LOL

Susan R. Mills said...

Wow! That's a lot to take in. Sounds like great advice to me. Good luck with the rest of your revisions.

Deniz Bevan said...

That sounds like a great exercise! I know one thing I always do - lots and lots of grinning and smiling and nodding in my books...
Thanks for the post! I'll save it when I get to the editing stage of my latest wip :-)

Linda O'Connell said...

Thanks for these tips. Getting a professional edit is like physical exercise, which causes some pain, and ends up with good results. Blessings on your book.

Warren Baldwin said...

I agree with Rosslyn - sounds like you have a great spirit about all this. I know it must be discouraging sometimes, but think of the great final product you will have!

Margo Berendsen said...

There are some things you just have to rely on a professional for help with; I think a professional editor is absolutely key for any writer. I certainly plan to make the investment. But I know it will hurt. And thank you for sharing what you've learned... I am certain it will help me when it comes time for the editors to dissect me, knowing I'm not the first to hurt.