Originally I was going to do this as my Wordy Wednesday (1-18-12), but I’m up early and can’t think of anything else to write about, so:
I wrote the novel I’m currently editing during my freshman year of high school (it was actually a NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program project, but that’s another story). I then did a base edit of the story during my sophomore year, decided it was perfect-beyond-perfect, and sent it out to a bunch of literary agents with a crappy query letter and no prior writing experience for my bio paragraph.
Needless to say, I got rejected by all of them.
Question: Why? Why was my perfect-beyond-perfect novel rejected without a single full manuscript request???
Answer: Because it wasn’t perfect. Because it was too long, poorly constructed, and riddled with typos and errors that were so glaring that I’m lucky a satellite didn’t fall on me in response (like, really lucky).
However, since my sophomore year publishing exploits, I’ve (thankfully) learned a lot more about Publishing and its very important little sister, Editing. 🙂
- Don’t edit while you write. I know, I know. It’s difficult. You want to go back and fix all of the grammar in that scene at the end of chapter two while you’re writing chapter five. DO NOT DO IT. Unless it’s something that’s extremely pertinent to the plot, like changing a character’s name or something, do not edit while still writing the first draft. Editing Mode and Writing Mode are two very different things and you can’t be in both of them at once.
- Write quickly, edit slowly. Whereas while you’re writing it’s good to get everything out as quickly as possible in order to maintain focus and not lose your inspiration, it’s good to let yourself take breaks and think things through while editing. It’s that whole “write for yourself, edit for the reader” thing. Don’t rush it.
- Let it sit. As I just said above, don’t rush it. Let your novel sit for a couple weeks, maybe even a couple months between drafts. While you don’t want to lose interest in your story, you also want to give it (and yourself) some breathing room.
- Get help from other people. If you ever find yourself thinking, “THIS IS HORRIBLE AND I’M NEVER GOING TO SHOW IT TO ANYBODY EVERRR BECAUSE IT’S AWFUL AND IT STINKS LIKE MEDIEVAL STREET SEWAGE AND I’M GOING TO DIEEE!” then it’s probably time for you to send a copy to your writing friends to critique for you. At one point or another, you’re going to get sick of your story and sick of your writing and just sick of yourself, and at that point you need to let your story go for a little while and let somebody else deal with it. When your writing friends send it back, you’ll have had the time and distance away from your novel you needed, along with a fresh insight into your story.
- Edit as many times as you can bear! Never be satisfied until you have no choice but to be. Don’t feel like you’re going to throw up if you read your novel ONE. MORE. TIME yet? Then you aren’t done editing! The only reason you should ever stop trying to improve your writing is because you can’t stand to do it anymore (and believe me, I’ve been there). You just need to keep pushing through, and bend until you break — you’ll thank yourself for it later.
- Be open to suggestions. Back to what I said about getting help from other people — they’ll offer you fresh insight into your story. Sometimes you’re not going to like that insight. Sometimes the change seems pointless, or stupid, or like it wrecks your story. But sometimes it saves it too, and you just have to be willing to listen to what your writing friends are telling you. (But if it’s something like, “Ehmmm, well, I don’t like that Harry ends up with Ginny instead of Hermione, so you should def change that, yeahhh!” then you probably shouldn’t take that advice. While listening to your readers is good, it’s also good to think on your own two feet. Don’t let somebody else change your plot because you don’t want to offend them or you think they’re a better writer than you or something. Don’t be a pushover, stand your ground. You’ll know if something’s worth fighting for.)
- Be okay with not being perfect. Face the facts: Your novel is never going to be perfect. That doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be good, it just means that you’re going to have to accept that there will always be mistakes and there’s nothing you can do about it. Try to make them the smallest, tiniest, most miniscule mistakes possible, obviously, but understand that you’re going to make them and you’re just going to have to suck it up and live with them.
Got any editing or writing tips of your own? Share them below! 🙂
T-minus 5 days to the Writer’s Digest Conference!
(Heigh ho, heigh ho, heigh ho, now back to the world of editing I gooo…)