Edit is a Four Letter Word

ESCAPE 2
© Johanna Goodyear | Dreamstime.com

I know I’m supposed to be in seclusion right now–I’m finishing up edits for my Victorian historical As Long As You’re Mine for submission to an agent.  Yes, I broke bad and hired an editor (a damn good one too) to make sure this manuscript was the best it could be.

And it will be, but man, the edits are kicking my butt!

Edits have never been easy; almost all of my manuscripts have come back from the editors looking like a Christmas tree with multi-colored balls on it.  So with a deep breath I roll up my sleeves and wade in.  I’ve never minded changing things when I feel the suggestion will make the work better.  It’s the making it better part that’s the real challenge.

Of course, I wrote the original word/phrase/sentence/paragraph thinking this is exactly what I mean.  Then it comes back with phrases like “word choice?” or “Not sure about this” or “Telling.”  Ugh!  Now I have to make it better.  And to do that I’m going to have to…gulp…think!  I’m actually going to have to be a writer.  My first drafts are usually gut and emotion.  The edits demand more.  They insist that I use craft to make this work better.

Edit is a four letter word.

But it’s a good word because edits/editors force us to re-invent that word/phrase/ sentence/ paragraph/character/plot point that is not up to its full potential.  It’s a bear because if you didn’t see anything wrong with what you had, how can you re-write it to make it better?  A good editor will tell you the whys, which will give you the tools you need to improve your work.

Bottom line–Trust your editor.  Ask questions if you don’t understand a comment. Editing should be a collaborative effort that works to make your manuscript the best that it can be.  And I’ve been fortunate to have worked with several editors with whom the collaboration process was absolutely wonderful, including my current editor.

Just don’t tell her I wrote this.  I’m supposed to be editing! :)

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19 Responses to Edit is a Four Letter Word

  1. pc says:

    Just remember…it may hurt a little but it’s good for you! ;)

  2. Ha, editors. Totally out of my realm for now. It’s nice you have a really good one that will help you in the ways you need.

  3. Carrie-Anne says:

    I’ve grown to love editing my own work in the past year. I couldn’t believe how much I was easily able to rewrite or completely take out of my Russian novel, which I’d been away from for a decade. The heaviest edits were from the material I wrote during my first major writing phase on it, when I was all of 13. I think it shows one’s growth into a more mature writer when one is ready and able to edit, and not feel the first draft is the perfect only draft.

  4. Cera duBois says:

    I totally agree, editing is what makes a book/story stand out… I enjoy editing, even with my editors. They’ve made my books better. The toughest by far had been the edits for Gambling on a Secret, but when I read that manuscript, I love what my content editor and the copy editor did to it!

  5. LOL! Great advice!!!!

  6. My critique group members are tough editors and making their changes is painful enough. But they probably don’t catch everything. Once I’ve worked on their suggestions, I guess I’d better find a pro for the final polish. *sigh* It sounds like everybody’s manuscript benefits from editing.

  7. My first round of edits that came back for my first novel nearly ripped my heart out. Said I had to change a name of a character and did you want to say it this way or would something else be better? The editor said that my edits were light compared to other novels she had gotten and I thought I would cry if they had been any heavier. She said that some authors had characters on some novels that had to be cut out completely and entire chapters that needed to be taken out of other novels. I could not imagine the horror of having to kill off one of my beloved characters, I am so glad that I have not had to make that choice, and hope I never do. The hardest thing I had to do was that first sentence of edits. I thought she was killing my voice, hurting my story and my characters. I closed the edits and thought about it for a couple of days. I took a deep breath, reread her edits and took her suggestions. After I had finished that first chapter, I closed it, reread it in a couple of days. To my surprise, it was better. The editor knew what she was talking about and after I forced my pride into the other room and locked the door, the edits came smoother. I don’t take every suggestion, and will still fight for something that I know is right, but I will not fight until I know without a doubt that it is not just my pride forcing it’s way under the door that is talking. No matter what you think, editors are on your side, on the side of your novel and of your characters.

    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      I do feel your pain, Dawn. I had to cut a chapter out of Scandal and change the ending. Losing that chapter cut me to the quick! But I’m going to eventually turn it into a free read for the last book in the series. So it really all works out. My editors have certainly made my work stronger. Wish I had their eyes! Thanks for sharing your edit story!

  8. Great post Jenna…editors are awesome and like someone else mentioned they certainly do make the story come to life and so much better than you imagined the first go around!

    Good luck with your edits…it’ll be worth your effort :)

  9. Love, Love, LOVE your bottom line – editors *are* our friends. They love books, they love our books…and they want to make them even bigger, shinier and more wonderful than we can imagine.

  10. karyrader says:

    Editors are friends. That’s a good Manta. Here’s another Manta I have that proves the need for the first – Commas are not confetti.

  11. Brenda says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with editing. But one thing I know is edits always make a story better.
    The one editor I know is a tough cookie, but she is awesome. I would love to work more with her. We share a mutual respect, which is a must for the author/editor relationship to work to its full potential.

  12. Lindsay says:

    The editor I have for my self-pubs is great.

  13. Damn straight! Hee, hee. I saw this at the top of the list of blogs I follow and had to run over and join the chorus. There are many adjectives I can use to describe the process of editing but none of them fit for polite company. :p Fortunately, I had encouragement early on from some really good and seasoned writers (one stands out topmost in my mind). They all agreed it’s a necessary evil and that my efforts would be appreciated by my readers. So, I labour on. :D Good luck!

  14. Editing is, by far, the most painful part of the process. That work that you are sure is “ready for prime time” is suddenly a flop at the box office. But remember that old joke: there must be a pony in here somewhere. You’ll find your pony, after you wade through all the horse manure. But I have to say, your work is so good, I can’t imagine you’ll need a very big shovel to dig out. Good luck with your edits. I look forward to picking up a copy of the shiny new, new car smelling, tasty as ice cream in summer book when it hits the digital stands. :)

  15. Sue says:

    I won’t tell. Every time I edit much less when someone else does I find all sorts of stuff to change. All that you mentioned plus inconsistencies in characters. yes writing is the fun part, editing is the work part.

  16. Maria D. says:

    Amen! Trust your editor – or hire a better one if you don’t think you can trust the one you have:)

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