Sunday, June 5, 2011


Editing.   There it is.  The most feared word in the writer community.  You may think this to be an understatement, but rest assured, it is not.

Here's something you may not know about writers.  We expect greatness on our first shot.  We lie to ourselves and say we don't.  We say we can edit this when we're done.  Move on.  Don't dwell!  This is our motivation, you see.  It's what gets us through the writing.  It keeps us moving forward so that the manuscript we're working on doesn't end up half finished and filed away in some dusty folder at the back of our computers.

So, when we finish that manuscript and print it out, all shiny and new, we expect to read it thinking that this is going to be the next best selling novel.  This was worth all those months (or years, depending on the writer) of our characters demanding our attention at all hours of the day (and night).  It was worth the arguments we had while others stared at us in worry.  It was worth the roadblocks and the surprises.  It was worth our time.

Here's something you probably already know about writers.  We are, by far, our own worst critics.

When we finally print off that first draft, all shiny and new, and start to read it, what goes through our mind is not 'this is fantastic!  I'm sending this out right now!' No.  What goes through our mind is 'Oh my...what was I thinking?  This can't be right!  This can't possibly be the novel I've written!'

This is where the fear of editing comes in.  Rather than facing the story that we now consider terrible and hardly worth anyone's time, we don't even want to look at it.  We want to pretend that we never wrote the bloody thing to begin with.  (Yep.  More lying.  What do you expect?  We're writers!)  We want to file it in the previously mentioned dusty folder and never think of it again!  Never own up to the fact that we wrote that terrible first draft!  Pretend like we don't know what our friends are talking about when they ask about the character that just the week before we were talking excitedly about (Or complaining about.  One or the other)!

And then, finally, as a last resort, we tell ourselves we'll look at it later.  We shove it in a drawer and start the process all over again (being careful to reassure ourselves that the writing portion of the process could not possibly be as bad as we remembered it).

Unfortunately that manuscript, the one that we very much find ourselves wishing we could forget ever existed, must one day see the light of day.  Especially when you know that you need to edit it in order to send out the ever dreaded query letter (stay tuned for more rants on that fun process).

So today I pick up my red pen and begin the editing process on the book that I finished writing in April.  I do not look forward to this project, but I do it knowing that it could one day be the next best selling book, with a little bit of work.  At least...that's what I tell myself.

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