How I Feel about Editing in General.
I have spent a long time attempting to learn the art of editing.
To be honest, I think it clearly comes more naturally to some writers, those amazing individuals who love apostrophes and spelling and punctuation. I am always in awe of people like that.
So this might sound kind of weird coming from a writer, but to be honest I'm not that into words....
And I have zero interest in grammar. Or spelling. And punctuation.
Is this odd for a writer? I dunno.
What I do like though is stories. I like words that are squished into the shapes of stories to make me feel things.
And that is why I love to write.
So therefore, editing my own work was a skill that was very hard for me to learn, and I am well aware that I still have a LONG way to go, which is why working with an editor on my book was such a freaking exciting and wonderful experience.
I am at the early stages of my career so it still blows me away that someone independent of my family and writing group actually wants to spend time reading my novel and showing me how to make it better. It is a truly strange feeling.
When you first start out, it’s freaking difficult to get anyone to read your work at all. Like ever.
And now I have an experienced editor dedicating her time to make my novel better than I could ever make it alone.
I’ve also heard a lot of stories where writers are pretty freaked out to get feedback on their novels, or feel very upset during the editing process if they are asked to change anything. For me, so far this process had been kind of painless. And I don’t mean we didn't change anything. I think maybe after five years of taking lots of rejections and blunt feedback and working hard by myself to make my work better and better, it is an utter relief to have a professional work with me to improve my writing.
It is SO MUCH EASIER than going it alone.
So yeah, actually I quite enjoyed the editing process. Who knows if it will be like that again if I get another book published, but for now, it was a really good experience. My editor would show me suggestions using the track changes function in Word and I'd see sentences become streamlined and paragraphs trimmed, all without ever losing the essence of what I was attempting to say.
It turns out there are A LOT of unnecessary words. Unnecessary sentences. Unnecessary paragraphs. It is crazy to read the streamlined version of my work and you kind of don't notice the difference, except it just reads easier, but when you see them side by side, it is quite interesting!
So just to see how writing will involve over time, I'm going to be brave and show you my a comparison between my very first ever draft of the opening passage of this novel (I NEVER show anyone my very first drafts because I write fast and dumb, and only go back to fix things when the whole first draft is done, so the writing is quite bad), and the later version.
Some changes were by me as I edited my own work but others were made by my editor in order to create the final version. The main thing you'll probably notice is just how streamlined the later version is.
So here you go:
The best tip I received from my editor, was to make two versions of the manuscript she sent back to me with her mark-ups.
On one, I’d accept all her suggestions using 'accept track changes'.
Then I’d read the new version through like I was reading an actual book, and frankly, I would find it just read really smoothly, but I couldn’t really pick out the instances where things had changed, I only knew it was better. It still felt like it was my writing and my novel’s voice. Just smoother and clearer.
If anything jumped out at me during this stage, I’d mark it for later.
Then I’d open the version of the manuscript still marked up in track changes.
And I’d realise that my editor had suggested LOADS of small changes, removing words, changing sentences so they weren’t as clunky. But I also already knew it still sounded like my work when I read it through with her suggestions accepted, so I didn’t feel all that overwhelmed by the suggested changes all over the text, because I understood, none of it was even that drastic, even though it sometimes looked like lots of red splashed around.
So.... for those who don’t know, there are different stages to the editing process. Structural (overview / plot / motivation / character / pacing / order of events etc.) and also the more nitty gritty stuff (is there a better way to say this sentence? Where is the full stop? What kind of crazy spelling is that?).
After that comes the proof reading, which isn’t about changing anything, but more about picking up mistakes.
For me, it was a great learning curve and a wonderful opportunity, that I really hope I get to go through again in the future. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to editing, but I did put together a post about learning to edit your own work, which I have included a link to below, which is still something I come back to all the time when I am working through a new manuscript.
Like I said, I still have heaps to learn in this arena, but I do think the processes I talk about in my post are a great place to start when learning to self-edit your own work.