Friday, August 12, 2011

In Plain Sight

Revising is tough.

You’ve finished the manuscript. You’re overjoyed with the outcome. It’s like when you work out for a week and you’re starting to see abs form (hey, they’re small, but they count).

Problem is if you don’t keep it up it goes right back to before. Mush.

You don’t want your manuscript to remain mushy. It must be molded and the easiest way to do it is to dig into revisions. Everyone starts differently. Some do a read through to make sure it flows well. Some dive into line edits because they’ve already spent a year and a half revising the sh** out of it so most of it is already done.

The one thing I’ve learned in all of this is that you’ll never catch it all. That’s what critique partners, beta readers, agents, publishers, and editors are for. The several people it takes to make a fabulous novel. After all there will always be that off word IN PLAIN SIGHT that the reader will catch just in time for the big debut.

We aren’t supposed to edit the novel within an inch of its life. It takes away from the actual story. You want to keep the voice, the raw nature of the novel.

So next time you’re revising and kill yourself trying to find the last mistake you made in your novel, eat a cookie, and move on. You’ll know when it’s great. After all we can strive for perfection but we have to know we can’t always meet it.

So are you a stickler on fixing the last mistake? Or are you one to handle the rawness?

31 comments:

The East Coaster said...

I'm pretty bad about overediting, but you're right. It is possible to edit your voice right out of the thing...it happened with one of my earlier books and I've never been able to get back into it to revise. Now it just sits on thumbdrive, unloved and unread.

Kathryn Elliott said...

I should eat many, many more cookies.

Anna Banks said...

I recently went through copy edits, which are basically last-chance-for-perfection edits. And I FREAKED OUT. But my agent had some good advice. She compared it to that Bob painter-guy we all used to watch on TV (admit it, you did). He would work magic on the canvas until you didn't think he could make it more perfect, but he still had a few minutes left on the show and he tweaked it some more...And sometimes that last tweak ruined the whole thing. Don't ruin it. Know when to quit. It will be okay. :)

Laura Marcella said...

Yes, I'm a perfectionist. But there comes a time when you just have to put it down and say, "This is good enough" and move on! Nothing will ever be perfect. When I'm published some day, I don't think I'll ever be able to read my finished novel because I know I'll always find things that I "should've" changed, haha!

Faith E. Hough said...

Yeah...I tend toward neuroticism. :) But I have awesome critique partners that prevent me from falling too far into that! You're right--they're one of, if not the most important parts of the revision process.

Angela Felsted said...

I like that. Keep the rawness. Because if there's one thing I can say about my writing, it is very, very raw!

Chris Phillips said...

I know what you're talking about. I'm in that area where I've been over it a gazillion times but I just don't want to send it out and then think, If only I'd changed that I'd be getting more of a response.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

When I start changing sentences back to their original form, I know it's time to stop and pass it off to my critiqu partners.

The King's Son said...

I love the line 'eat the cookie and move on'. The post reminds me of something i once wrote on a friend's wall on facebook and here it is
"The first draft can be disgraceful and embarrassing at times. I cover my eyes and scream at the paper 'Did I write that with my hands?'. But these days I'm learning and growing in the poise of a ready writer. I give myself a few days before I edit the first draft. By that time I'm more calm to deal with my paper mistakes. And isn't it so with our lives too?"
Blessings :D

The King's Son said...

I love the line 'eat the cookie and move on'. The post reminds me of something i once wrote on a friend's wall on facebook and here it is
"The first draft can be disgraceful and embarrassing at times. I cover my eyes and scream at the paper 'Did I write that with my hands?'. But these days I'm learning and growing in the poise of a ready writer. I give myself a few days before I edit the first draft. By that time I'm more calm to deal with my paper mistakes. And isn't it so with our lives too?"
Blessings :D

The King's Son said...

I love the line 'eat the cookie and move on'. The post reminds me of something i once wrote on a friend's wall on facebook and here it is
"The first draft can be disgraceful and embarrassing at times. I cover my eyes and scream at the paper 'Did I write that with my hands?'. But these days I'm learning and growing in the poise of a ready writer. I give myself a few days before I edit the first draft. By that time I'm more calm to deal with my paper mistakes. And isn't it so with our lives too?"
Blessings :D

Jemi Fraser said...

I worry I overedit too. It seems there's always something to fix :)

Becky Taylor said...

My agent and I went over my ms tons of times before submission. Just yesterday, I was reading through a section (trying to find a detail for consistency in the next book) and what did I find--A TYPO.

I'm pretty sure there are still quite a few. I mean, you go through it, Betas do, agents do, editors do, copy editors do, and still I read published books with errors in them. They're like cockroaches.

Tracey L. Bentley said...

I need to learn to move on (hey, maybe a cookie really will help). I tend to over edit until I'm back to where I started. It's a vicious circle.

GigglesandGuns said...

Perhaps the over-edit comes from fear of letting go.
Something will always be missed because everyone involved in the process is human. That's how I view my work and everyone else's.

Strive for perfection but remember we're not made that way.

Samantha said...

I tend to over-edit, but at the same time I'm able to catch 95% of my mistakes. I just have to put the manuscript away for a while so that I have fresh eyes when I read it.

Samantha
Writing Through College

Jenna Blake Morris said...

I'm working on cutting my word count right now, and I know I'll over-edit on that. So I'll have to go through and bridge everything together, make it natural again. Other than that, though, over-editing isn't a huge problem for me.

Kelley said...

Knowing when you've edited enough is a hard call for a lot of writers. Good post! (as always)

Meredith said...

Eating a cookie and moving on sounds pretty good to me. I usually overanalyze things, but I'm learning to leave a little rawness in there.

Shannon said...

Urgh. Editing. I love and hate it at the same time. I try to keep a balance between polished and raw, if that makes any sense. Right now, I'm mustering the courage to get back to edits.

Christina Lee said...

Hey, you!!!

Yeah, *sigh*--usually I do it to procrastinate on something else--ha!

Kristin Rae said...

hahaha i love that. eat a cookie and move on. :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

I so want a cookie right now.

Johanna Garth said...

I just cut 10,000 words out of Losing Hope this week. Completely rewrote the beginning...hopefully I didn't do a voice-ectomy!

Sarah Pearson said...

What I took from this?

Revising is tough. Eat a cookie.

Jen, I love you :)

Len Lambert said...

When I finished my first ever ms, I didn't like revising. But that was because I wasn't getting anywhere. When I moved on and began writing my next ms and also wrote short stories, I handled revising better. It feels great when a writer reads the final version, when you feel confident it will get somewhere. Thanks for this lovely post, Jen!

Donna said...

I do it over the top. Then, I realize that I'm just frustrating myself and probably my critique partners too. I think I'm finally finding my happy medium.

mshatch said...

I do think it's possible to ever-edit. I mean I definitely want to catch all those grammar and spelling errors like thm instead them), and all those places where it's obvious something is missing or there's too much but I do think there comes a point (and I can't say when exactly it occurs) when you just have to say it's done and leave it alone.

Caitlin said...

I think I need to start eating more cookies. When I edit my work I'm vicious. Maybe a pack of cookies stashed away at my desk would fix that.

Laura said...

It's got to be a bit rugged and raw for me - and this is the only thing that gets me through the rough draft in the first place, the fact that there is going to be a team of people to make it sparkle - my job is to unearth the rough gem and clean all the cr*p off it.
Lxxx

Theresa Milstein said...

I so agree, Jen. You'll appreciate this quote:

“Since each story presents its own technical problems, obviously one can’t generalize about them on a two-times-two-equals-four basis. Finding the right form for your story is simply to realize the most natural way of telling the story. The test of whether or not a writer has defined the natural shape of his story is just this:

After reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final? As an orange is final. As an orange is something nature has made just right.”

Truman Capote, 1957, The Paris Review.