Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tips From a Young Writer - Editing.

Writing is fun. You get to control people into doing what you want them to do (sort of ... sometimes they don't quite agree with your schemes.) and sometimes build an entire world - just by tapping keys on your keyboard or scribbling in your notebook.

Soon you finally have finished your story. Your hero has married the heroine (or, at least, they are now engaged) the villain is dead (or at least in prison) and the world has been saved. Then you read it all over again, intending to revel in the brilliance that has spilled out of your fingers and onto your notebook/computer screen.

And it's horrid.

Did your villain really put on a pair of dirty Rocks? The proposal scene between hero and heroine is completely sappy and/or cheesy. You never did figure out what happened after the villain trapped the hero's younger sister on that island ... in fact, you completely forgot that your hero had had a sister!

Somehow, the words you see on the paper/computer screen is nothing like the words you remember spilling out of your fingers.

So what do you do? Do you crawl into bed, pull the blanket over your head, and decide that you will never write again, if all you can write is this horrid mess? Surely a good author wouldn't have made these horrid mistakes!

Let me let you in on a little secret. Every writer makes mistakes. Every book starts out horrid. Even the greatest books in the world have gone through the horrid stage called first draft. You're not alone. Welcome to the world of editing.

Editing? You ask. Did you just say editing? Yes I just said editing. And, I agree, editing is not fun. Editing means reading over all your mistakes and wracking your brain over how to fix them. Sometimes your attempts at fixing the mistakes will only make them worse.

So how do you go about this dreadful task called editing?

Well, the first step is to defamiliarize yourself with your story. You have just spent however long it took to write your book eating/drinking/breathing your story. It's part of you. You know it like the back of your hand, and knowing that it's flawed and horrid hurts. Trying to change things will just make it hurt more. If you don't defamiliarize yourself with it, you'll end up with a headache the size of the moon.

So how do you defamiliarize yourself with your story? It's simple. Put your story in a time capsule and don't touch it for at least one or two months. The longer and worse your story, the longer you need to ignore it. During this time, try to return to normal life. Hang out with your real friends, do puzzles, eat popcorn, learn to knit ... If you have to write, work on a completely different book. I have about thirty or so stories that I rotate working on, both on the computer and in notebooks. In fact, working on a different story is a good idea, as it will keep you mind off the story you're trying to ignore.

When you have sufficiently ignored your story, reread it. However, pretend that you didn't write it. Read it as if you have no idea what's going to happen. When you have finished, call up your inner editor. Everyone has one. Mine is named Sandra Elizabeth. With his or her help, read it again, but this time changing anything that didn't make sense ... such as changing those rocks that your villain is wearing back into socks ... if you haven't already.

There will be some scenes that you will have to completely rewrite. Don't fret! this is completely normal. Just take a deep breath and plunge in.

When you have rewritten and edited everything you can, find some people that will be completely honest with you, but with whom critique will not destroy your relationship of mutual trust. Have them read it and point out anything that did not make sense to them, and suggest ideas to make it better.

Now, that's all I have to say on that topic. If you have opinions, feel free to add them! If you have a request for me to write on, feel free to leave a comment with that!

1 comment:

  1. Hi!
    I'm a young mom of 6 (I'm sticking to Young mom) all my little people are 9 and younger, and I had wanted to write when I was younger, but was discouraged to even try. I've often thought about it, and thought I couldn't. Someone posted a link to your book on Amazon, and I loved it :) It made me smile (Sew, its a quest), and laugh out loud many times. Anywho, I decided to try writing something. . . Sent it to a friend to have her edit it for me, but the only reason I tried it was because you did. So thanks!!


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