Monday, January 7, 2008

Editro, woh neesd an eidtor?

Mood: Just Breathing

Currently on my IPOD
: Sweetest Goodbye, Maroon 5

Quote of the Week: To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.

- Letter to Emeline Beach, 2/10/1868
~Mark Twain

(Alright Travis. You win. I am actually blogging here first and not on myspace. Happy?)

Hello, it's me. Did you expect anyone different? Time for the new blog, new year, new me, well...not so new me. It's just the old me with a different date stamp and some fancy new PJ's, a few books I've been wanting and a lot of left over candy canes. Oh, and with a bit of new advice: Egg Nog flavored candy is never a good idea.

Onward and upward to more important things. Writing. I wanted to start off this year with a post on writing and let you know that 99% of the posts from this point on are going to be about writing. And when you get sick of it, I will more than likely change things up a bit and do some more writing about writing.

A fresh page. A new start. A new year. Right? Wrong. Let's talk about editing and revision and what you need to get started.

I have been justifiably accused of sending out my materials too soon. But, what I have learned is that premature submissions can be and most likely are the reason for rejection from magazines, pub. houses, your mother, etc other than poor writing in general. Well, I am sure your mother likes your work regardless of what it sounds like or what the topic is are talking about things she said to you as a child and how it has driven you into years of therapy and caused a mountain of debt to build up and how ultimately it is her fault so she should be the one paying not only your therapy bills but all the bills for your food, seeing as you overeat under extreme stress and how you tend to go buy new shoes everytime your therapists suggests calling your mother, so in reality she should be taking care of the whole damn credit card bill. (And this my friend, is why America is in such bad debt. Just a theory. Remind me at a later date to give you my theory on the war.) Otherwise, no worries on your part if you're trying to only impress family members.

Medical experts say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Same goes for writing. There is no use in sending out your MASTERPIECE without a good once over by someone other than yourself. This act of revision alone might save you years, okay, I exaggerate, days or possibly weeks of binge sessions with onion rings and fried cheese burgers at Denny's over a particularly harsh rejection letter. Actually, I think if you do this too many times and you will need to not only take in my advice, but also the doctor's advice as well.

Onward. I believe a good revision and edit of your book is kind of like one of those new-age hippy-chic-get-to-know-yourself-guru-docs, who are dressed in feathers and what not, waving incense and chanting for your soul. It gives you time to sort out who you are as a writer and on the way teaches you a few important lessons before you screw it all up!

The revision stage is not only the fun stage of writing but it is a chance for you to redeem yourself before anyone even knows you need to redeem yourself. It is like starting a whole new page of your book or even in some cases, a whole new story.

This stage gives you the opportunity to get to know your characters a little bit better. For when you start out a book, unless you have spent years developing your character sketches before writing a word of the book, you hardly know them, right? Now you intimately know the characters, where they started out from and where they are going. So liven up the party a little. Let them loose on the page, see what happens. But take caution all the while.

Revision, of course, is also a time for contemplation. Is your plot going where it needs to go by the middle of the book? Or do you pile it all on the reader's conscious by the first third and then play puppeteer with your characters until the big climactic scene at the end? Contemplate some of your sub-plots. Do they actually work in moving the main problem along or is the French maid story where the protagonist finally finds love, even though this is an epic war novel about the Care Bears,worthy of its own book or worthy of the trash can because the French maid wasn't in any of the chapters leading up to her "subplot."

Revision can be about following your theme. Does everything in this story follow the theme of your novel? Can you even name the theme of your novel? Hmmm...these are all questions you should have asked yourself before you started writing. But then again, if you are a compulsive writer like I am and tend to write thousands of words in a sitting, only to listen to your editor later on that night say, hey this is pretty good and you are thinking, wow..I wrote something pretty good and he is talking about two lines and you were talking about the entire chapter...I digress. You may be trying to get it all out before you run out of steam in the first draft stage and during the revision stage you will go back and begin to address issues of theme. But more often than not, I hunker down and find that even during my first draft, I am writing towards the main theme of the book. But this is because I knew my theme before I started. But this doesn't mean that you won't find areas of the book that are completely irrelevant to theme and plot and characterization of your characters throughout when you get to the end.

And not to mention that the revision stage gives you ample opportunity to correct things like por spellnig ;:" overuse of" , comma's and punctuation!, in, as much. as your poor terrible no good, very bad grammar. This is where a good LINE EDIT (Line edit, v.: Where such said editor runs through your MS line by line and says things like, hey NO MORE COMMA SPLICES, YOU DO IT AGAIN AND I WILL COME AFTER YOUR FAMILY! and then follows it up by, did you mean to misspell the word, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious for the twentieth time on this page or is it just me?) should help. And you can go ahead and try to do a good line edit by yourself but this is a case of trying to do Lasik surgery on your own eyes. If you could see your cornea and your retina then none of us would need corrective eye surgery. As a matter of fact, we would probably also have super powers if we could all do this and writing would then suddenly be irrelevant. And if you care to know, my super-hero power would be the ability to write a perfect first draft every time and don't anyone else try to claim this. I get it first! Ninny-Ninny boo-boo.

Line edits can be tedious and terrible. But where a good editor comes in and stays in is well before the line-edit. So, go buy a bottle of extra strength Excedrin and sit down while reading the rest of this.

There are several different types of editors. There are book doctors who may or may not be after your money. Like this one: Words R U and this one: Writing 2 Sell. And as we all know, writers are super duper wealthy people, so go ahead, spend all that chump-change you have lying around. I once had a friend say that the site looked legitimate and the people were awfully nice to her. But in the end they still did a shoddy job of editing her MS and gave her very poor advice, not to mention the $1000 she was out by the end. Otherwise, Google the hell out of your choice, then go to this site: BEWARE OF BOOK DOCTORS and then ask a few other writers and then when you are done with that, contact the BBB.

Then there is another type of editor. The good guy. The one who actually wants to see you do a good job and has experience with critique, (real crit., not the pat you on the head and tell you its going to be alright type.) Ian Wood.

I am sure there are others like him out there, but I wouldn't know where to find one. Ian came by personal recommendation through my life and writing coach, Lisa Gates, who deserves her own shout out and will get it soon enough in this blog.

What Ian does for me is an enormous amount of work for an extremely reasonable price. Not only is he there for me with the obvious stuff, like my poor grammatical choices and sometimes atrocious sentence structure, he is there for me from A-Z. Or A to THE END, the real end, not the end that you think is the end.

He asks questions that provoke thought regarding my overall plotting, my structure and my characters. He questions my turns of phrase, and *BONUS* without putting me on the defense about my writing. Ian makes sure that I am conveying, in the best possible way, the story that I feel is important. And then when the first draft is done, he starts the process all over again until it is sparkles and reeks of greatness, even if this journey takes a while to complete. And of course he includes the all-mighty line edit when it is time.

But what a lot of writers do not realize is how very important this service is. To use my analogy yet again, it is like trying to see and operate on your own eye. Bottom line, this is your baby, treat it with tender loving care. Feed it. Nurture it. Allow it to grow in its own right and then throw it out to someone else to finish off the job. But don't throw it out to the sharks too soon. It might become fish bait without having learned to swim.

As always, thank you for reading.

Yours in Editors, Exceptional MS Standards and Expressing Yourself,



Travis Erwin said...

Wow you've really been bottling this stuff up haven't you?

And I'm always happy, unless there is lettuce involved. Or epic novels about the Care Bears.

Lisa Gates said...

You know, we'll probably never see Ian leave a comment here when the subject is IAN, but he really is a stellar human being and an impeccable--I want to say scholarly--editor. And funny as hell.

He has saved me from "early submission syndrome" twice.