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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Edits That Never End

I'm sure I've talked about this before. Probably more than once, come to think of it. Editing is a mucky mire and it's very easy to get lost in the muck. And, after much thought, I've come to the conclusion that editing is a learned skill. I've never met an author who can edit instinctively.

Yes, there are some brilliant grammarians out there who know exactly what to do with a comma (whereas I survived high school English by putting apostrophes over the s and using horrendous handwriting to hide spelling errors). And there are some people who know if their bones how to pace a good story. Their are those who are born understanding how well placed conflict creates the stepping stones of a story... but none of these people can do it all.

Most of them fall apart in content edits.

For those who don't spend all day thinking about fiction (what's that like, by the way?), a content edit is where you shape the story. It's the emotional arc, the pacing, the action, the mood and content of the narrative. And it's really hard to get right.

A lot of people think of editing as fixing typos and adjusting comma placement. That's a line edit. And sometimes it's the only edit an author does. It's a basic beginner mistake: you finish Draft 1, run spell check, and call the book done! Whee! So easy! Why is it taking Big Famous Author so long to write their book?

Well, probably because practice and wisdom lead authors to believe there is no such thing as a finished book. Seasoned authors often fall into the trap of constantly tinkering with edits. Just one more change. Maybe rewrite that chapter again. Maybe, you know, start over? Who knows!

It takes a lot of deadlines to train an author to let go of the book. The more you write, the more you think you need to edit, and the less you recognize Finished.

Sadly, I don't know where I am on this spectrum. Am I giving up the edits too early? Am I well past finished but unable to recognize it? Is this book a lost cause? Am I actually performing CPR on a headless body of a book?

The only way to know is to turn in the edits and see how much my editor yells.


... I should probably buy her a present. What kind of chocolate makes bad books look good?

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