Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, December 15, 2006

Guest Blog -- Why Do We Edit?

As a reader, I loved Julie's post yesterday about a few of her favorite books of 2006. As a writer, it made me ponder again the steps one must take to craft a novel worthy of one of Julie's future lists. Fortunately, I knew where to go for advice. An author I admire, Tristi Pinkston, has a blog with 350,938 tips for people like me. (Okay, maybe not that many, but it IS a very impressive collection!) One of my favorites is this piece on editing.

Why Do We Edit?
by Tristi Pinkston

If I had my way, I would write perfectly from the very start of the manuscript and I would never have to edit. I don’t like to edit. After about the fourth pass, I get a very “been there, done that, want to throw it under a train” feeling and I start to get sick and tired of the story. That’s always a good time to take a break, but I know that I have to come back and edit it again. Why?

I was explaining the “why” to a friend the other day, and in the back of my mind I heard a little voice that sounded surprisingly like me saying, “This would make a great blog.” So, folks, here’s the why.

When you write a book, your job as the author is to create a world for your reader. You pull them into it from the first pages, wrap them in cords of suspense or in warm fluffy blankets of romance, and you keep them there. You feed them with plot and dialogue. You entice them with twists and turns. You make your book a place they want to be, and they hate to pull themselves away for any reason. You want to keep their attention riveted on your words, on the spell that you have cast. You don’t want anything to interrupt that hypnotic state you’ve so carefully crafted.

Nothing throws a reader out of a hypnotic state like bad grammar, a poorly constructed sentence, or a mislaid historical fact. Your reader is floating along on a blissful sea of literary loveliness, and suddenly BAM! Smack up against a poorly constructed sentence. The spell is broken as the reader tries to figure out what you meant. It will take at least two pages to get them back under your spell, and in the space of time that takes, they may get up to make a sandwich, answer the phone, or run an errand, and you might not get them back for days.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the most important reason to edit. Yes, it pleases the editor. Yes, it makes your manuscript more presentable. Yes, it’s the professional thing to do. But what it all boils down to is this: if you so successfully entrance your reader that they feel they have escaped to your world for a blissful three hours, they will want you to entrance them again and again. They will come back for more. They will recommend your books. They will buy your new releases. They will rant and rave about you to everyone they meet. Best of all, for those precious three hours, you will have granted them the gift of relaxation and you send them back out into the world better able to face their day. That’s powerful. That’s worth all the angst of editing, isn’t it?

You can check out the rest of Tristi's writerly advice here. And if you're looking for books that will be sure to make your list of all-time favorites (they're certainly on mine!) look at Tristi's books here.

Now I want to hear YOUR editing advice. Do you edit as you go along? At the very end? Leave it to professionals? What?


8 Comments:

At 12/15/2006 9:43 PM, Blogger FHL said...

I can pretty much count on my wife to do my editing, but I like to try to edit it myself before it gets to her. (Don't want her to make me feel stupid.)

Lately, I've been trying to just push as many words out as I can, but then go back once I feel done to do the editing. I seem to work best under an assembly line kind of paradigm.

[Standardized test taking tip: when marking the bubbles, make a single line through the circle. When you're about to run out of time (at least a minute left) go back through and finish filling in the bubbles. This allows you to keep your brain throttled in between each question. And take it from me, I'm a pro.]

Incidentally, LDSPublisher is doing a holiday story contest - another 500-word personal nightmare. Go submit something!
http://www.ldspublisher.blogspot.com/

3 total entries just isn't enough.

 
At 12/16/2006 12:08 AM, Blogger LDS Publisher said...

So FHL, where's your entry?? :)

 
At 12/16/2006 1:46 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

My main problem is staying on task, as I'm ADHD as all get out. However, when I'm in the writing groove, I write now and edit later. Usually, I edit the whole thing at least once, maybe twice, and then send it to trusted readers for their suggestions. This time around, I sent out a raw first draft to several people, and am editing/re-writing with their comments in mind.

 
At 12/16/2006 1:53 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

My main problem is staying on task, as I'm ADHD as all get out. However, when I'm in the writing groove, I write now and edit later. Usually, I edit the whole thing at least once, maybe twice, and then send it to trusted readers for their suggestions. This time around, I sent out a raw first draft to several people, and am editing/re-writing with their comments in mind.

[blogger must be busy--this is my second try to post]

 
At 12/16/2006 10:26 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Well put, Tristi. As much as we hate to edit the same thing a hundred times, if it creates that magic, it's worth it!

I edit along the way, then a second time. And then I get my critique group to bleed over it with their red pens. And then I edit again. By the time it reaches my "real" editor at my publisher, it's probably been edited a good half a dozen times. And yes, by the end, I am ready to throw it under a train just like you said.

 
At 12/17/2006 10:13 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I read that Pearl S. Buck never changed a word in a manuscript until she finished the whole thing. Oscar Wilde, on the other hand, claimed to agonize over every comma as he went along. Alas, I tend to be more like Oscar.

I don't know how many time I've heard the expression "turn off the editor while you write" but nobody has ever told me where the on/off switch is located!

 
At 12/21/2006 3:15 AM, Anonymous stacywhitman said...

It's also important to remember that once it reaches your editor, you'll still have more revisions to do. So you get it as perfect as you can, but then you have to once again be willing to see your manuscript with new eyes when revision notes come back. That is, creating the world as perfectly as possible is important, as Trist says, but it's also important to recognize that you'll have been looking at the manuscript for so long by the end of the process that your editor's second pair of eyes (or 3rd or 4th, but then I'm not counting alpha readers) will help point out places to improve that even after all that editing, you didn't see--or couldn't.

 
At 12/21/2006 9:33 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Stacy! Welcome!

 

Post a Comment

<< Home