Tuesday, January 05, 2010

2010: Day 5 & The Edits Just Keep On Coming

Speaking of edits, not long ago someone in one of several groups I belong to asked fellow writers to read through his first few revised chapters and asked them to offer their comments and suggestions. As usual, I’d arrived late. Several of the comments left on the post indicated that this was possibly round two or three of edits. I read the chapter and offered my two cents worth of advice. The read was cumbersome with pages and pages of narration -- all telling, not a showing sentence in sight.

Nearly all the readers suggested the piece needed more editing. Sadly, the writer wrote back to say that cutting any of his words felt like cutting off his right arm and he just couldn’t delete any more. How disappointing. The very worst thing writers can do is to fall so deeply in love with their words that they kill the manuscript in the process. No matter how good a first draft may seem, it’s still a skeletal outline of what’s to come.

So my advice to anyone who happens to read this post is to not be afraid to cut words, sentences, paragraphs, or even entire chapters. In fact, be ruthless with your edits. Pages need several polishings before they shine. Better to get a harsh critique than a harsh review.


Lonnie Cruse said...

You, my friend, are one of the best editors I've ever known. Your comments on the chapter endings in one of my books helped it become one of the best I've written. That other writer was nuts not to listen to necessary cuts. We might love what we write but sometimes, no ALL the time, less is more.

Marta Stephens said...

Oh! I remember that! LOL I'm so glad my suggestions were helpful. I enjoyed working with you on that book.

As much as I work to proofread and edit my work, I'm always amazed at the things I've missed that jump out at my crit partner(s). Couldn't do it with out several sets of fresh eyes.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

J D Webb said...

It amazes me that my first editor (my wife), my critique group (all experienced, successful authors), and my publisher's excellent editor can dissect a manuscript and still have an error pop up in the final version.

Cheryl said...

JD, when I edit a manuscript, I go through it three times and I swear during the first two sweeps I've gotten everything, and I still find more on the final read through. I don't think it's possible to catch everything, just mostly everything.

Marta, I can't proof or edit my own work to save my life. I always miss something that is so obvious to me once it is pointed out.

Thanks for this great post.


Marta Stephens said...

Hey JD and Cheryl...so, so true. I normally have my husband and at least two-three crit partners and one brave person read my manuscript at various stages of the process. I'm usually ready for someone to offer suggestions after I've given it three good edits.

When I edit, I'm focused on plot and plot twists, characterization and redundencies. I normally catch the typos and odd punctuations along the way too, but I tend to look for different things each time I edit.

One thing I've found very helpful is to record myself reading a chapter. Man, do things pop out then!