Sunday, January 13, 2013

Striking a Writerly Balance with Editing

Wow, it really has been a minute since I've blogged about my own writerly exploits, hasn't it? Well, I have been hosting quite a few blog tour stops, which are incredibly exciting. I love interviewing these authors and hearing all about their new books. The downside to this is that my reading list has been growing exponentially, but I have hope that one day I will get around to reading them all.

The other thing keeping me from personal blogging has been the very personal--and very trying--editing journey I've been on since November. I have learned so much over these past couple months to make my novel even better. Here are just a few nuggets of wisdom I'd like to share:

  1. Be very wary of the words "that" and "of" as most of the time they are filler words.
  2. Don't head jump. If you have a story told from multiple POVs, stick to one person's head per chapter. If you can't do that (which I have discovered I can't since so many people are involved in mine), try to stick to one person's POV per scene. Abiding by this rule cut my 149k manuscript down to 119k easily. 
  3. Try to get your hands on a Style Guide. This will make editing so much easier. Belle Bridge Books has a basic one on their site, but I would recommend checking out misused words and passive sentences.
  4. Don't think you know everything about comma usage. Finding out you don't will be very humbling.
  5. Don't be discouraged! Editing is a tough and time consuming process that all writers have to go through. They don't lie when they say writing the first draft is half the battle. Realistically, the first draft is probably only a quarter of the battle when you factor in editing, querying, and marketing in general.
This last one is easier said than done, and it is something I've been struggling with since I started the hardcore process of editing Heirs of War. Here's the thing: I always say that I am a far better storyteller than I am writer. My prose is weak at best, but I have a knack for creating characters that jump off the page and storylines that twist and turn. So when I really take a look at my prose, I tend to be more than a little shamed by it. I have no flourish with words. I'm no George RR Martin and if I reread Tolkien right now I would probably cry. I would actually describe my prose as dry, to be completely honest.

Now, before you start arguing that you are you're your own worse critic, hear me out. I had a bit of an epiphany tonight. My manuscript was 149k long before I started editing. Even now at 119k, some might argue that it is still too long. If I try to flourish, first of all it won't be me. I have my own style (which some have called "conversational", I think meaning my writing seems like I am telling you the story), and flourish isn't part of it. Not to mention the fact that I am pretty sure I would be bad at it. Second of all, my wordcount would go up exponentially. Again. And that would definitely be bad.

So what is the biggest lesson that I have learned throughout this whole editing process? My writing style is just that--mine. And that is okay. At the end of the day, I still love my characters and the stories they have and I want to share them. So I will continue to push through what I am now considering to be my first round of major edits so that I can do exactly that--share them.

The good news is that I am almost done with said round of edits. Going through misused and compound words, then running each chapter through Autocrit (Best. Writerly. Investment. Ever.) and I will be back to sending the manuscript off (provided certain possibilities on the horizon don't pan out, but I still have my secretive fingers crossed).


  1. So, maybe you're more of a Hemingway, nothing wrong with that! At least you don't have to worry about purple prose. Hope your horizon possibilities DO pan out.

  2. I think my achilles heel is the comma... I made a concerted effort to try and learn the rules and I think my brain started to bleed. I would seriously buy a copy of 'comma rules for dummies' if someone could explain them properly (although I'm very skeptical...).

    I also agree about trusting your own voice - I prefer story to flourish any day. It sounds like you've made great progress - best of luck.

  3. I think you've come up with the right answer to all the editing advice: no matter how much editing your book needs, you shouldn't ever lose your voice... Good luck!