Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Adventures in Editing or... Is it Done Yet?
2/21/2011 10:40:44 PM
Itís a well known fact writing can be fun. The same thing cannot always be said about the next stage of the writing process. Toiling over the draft of a new story to trim off the fat, expand on passages that can use more detail and the task of proofreading make up what I consider in my mind, Writerís Hell. Some say experiencing writerís block is hell, but to me, once the first draft of the story is finished and it must now be subjected to serious scrutiny, that is a hellish form of Hell if there ever was in.
Okay, so Iím exaggerating! Itís more like Writerís Purgatory where you can be imprisoned indefinitely, but in my humble opinion, itís the least pleasant, but a very necessary part of the writing process. (I highly recommend hiring a professional editor if itís within your budget, but I digress.)
Aside from attending writers conferences to hone my storytelling skills, there are also many useful workshops designed to help with the proofreading/editing process. One of the things I had noticed while attending my first writers conference was the number of authors who struggled with getting the first draft of their manuscript to the finished stage, all polished and ready to pitch to an agent or editor.
The vast majority complained that the process was slow and gruelling as they would write, write and rewrite to achieve this polished level of perfection. Even J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame said, during an interview, that she wrote the first chapter of her debut novel over ten times in her bid to get it just right. Iím not talking about scribbling out or adding in a paragraph or sentence here or there, and then rewriting it to fit seamlessly into the existing text; Iím speaking of crumpling up the pages and then starting over, and over, and over, again.
Because it was my very first conference and my first exposure to other writers, I was left rather baffled and wondering if I was going about this whole business of writing the wrong way.
One nice lady I met had her manuscript with her, safely tucked away in a manila envelope she kept under her arm. She explained to me that she had been coming to the Surrey International Writers Conference for ten years at this point, and she was still trying to perfect her story.
I had to give her credit for working so diligently on her novel, but for me? I certainly wouldnít be able to write and rewrite for a decade. Working on the same story all these years and never feeling it is good enough would drive me just a little more loopy than I already am. I know I would just abandon it to start fresh.
Not only would I lack the patience, but in my opinion, if I wrote something that required that much time and effort, there must be serious flaws with the story to begin with. Iíd lack the determination to flog a dead horse in a futile bid to resurrect it.
In my case, I write only one draft, thatís it.
From this one draft, I proofread, expand a little or cut back. That is the extent of my editing. From the other writers sharing their experiences, I was getting the distinct feeling I was approaching the whole writing process all wrong. How come everyone else seemed to be writing, rewriting, etc. and this seemed to be the norm for the Ďseriousí writers?
And there I was, one draft that Iíd tweak, proofread, and then share with my critique group and beta readers.
I attributed this to the fact that for me, I tend to write the opening scene and closing scene of the book first, plotting out the key points of the chapters, and then it becomes a simple matter of writing the scenes and dialogue of a movie as it plays out in my head. Itís a simple process and I like simple.
Iíve had some writers tell me that they donít plot their stories out. Instead, itís all very organic and they just write, allowing the characters to tell their story. They explained that if they plotted the story out, thereíd be no surprises. If it doesnít have elements that surprise them as the writer, then how would the readers be surprised?
One such writer told me that he equated plotting out events with being uninspired, telling me that writing must be organic, if itís to be Ďrealí. He also went on to tell me that to block off a specific time each day to write (treating it as a business) was as bad as plotting out a story; that writing is a creative process that cannot be forced by trying to meet daily word counts. He believed writing should only happen when the muse is inspired to allow such creativity. This writer was proud to tell me he had nine novels on the go, none of which were finished, but he planned to have them done one day and his organic way of writing could be forced. He just couldnít wrap his head around the fact that I worked on only one novel at a time until it was completed, stating that the boredom of working on just one story would be his creative demise. In fact, he was so bothered by my method of writing, he was not interested in reading any of my novels, even though some of his stories were of the same genre.
Well, sadly for him, he passed away. None of his stories were ever finished, and now, none will ever see the light of day.
For me, in my simplistic way of thinking, when I can create dialogue or scenes that Iíve plotted out, and the quality is such that Iím pleased and surprised by it, wouldnít it stand to reason that the readers would be just as surprised and pleased?
I think some writers who donít plot heavily assume that plotting out a story means being predictable. I think itís possible to plot out an entire story, or even a complete series, but throw in elements the readers never see coming. Whatever the case, for me, plotting out the major events in my stories had allowed me to create one draft. It has proven to be a time-saving measure and plotting out the story has kept me focused, writing to the end without straying off the storyline.
When Iím ready to begin the proofreading/editing stage, I like to separate myself from the ms for at least two weeks before I tackle it. When I do, with my diminished memory, it is like reading someone elseís story. Of course, this means printing it out, because proofreading from a computer screen is totally different from reading off paper. It becomes a little easier finding typos, spelling mistakes, grammatically errors, etc.
Because my stories tend to average out 175k words, there is no way my critique group has the time to review the entire novel as there are other writersí works to consider as well. Instead, I select specific passages of complex action scenes or intense dialogue to make sure they understand what Iíve written and if Iíve conveyed these things in the context I meant for them to be read.
From here, others with sharp eyes and equally sharp pens will examine every page, looking for the typos, missing words, etc. that I missed, as well as those overlooked by members of my critique group.
Now, this leads me to one of the most frustrating things about the proofreading/editing process. It seems that no matter how many eyes I have perusing my works, even the eyes of professional editors, there were always the odd typo or a word that should have been pluralized, etc. In the big scheme of things, these were minor, but when you are striving to publish something that you want to be as perfect as possible, there is no such thing as perfect!
One of my favourite authors Iíve had the privilege of learning from, Mr. Terry Brooks, once said that even best-selling novels produced by mainstream publishing houses will have the odd mistakes. He attributed this to the fact that people do the proofreading and editing; therefore, one must make allowances for human error.
He also went on to say, ďPeople are far more forgiving if they read a story they love and it has a few typos, but what is unforgivable is for people to spend money on a book that is technically perfect, but the story falls flat.Ē
I took certain comfort in Mr. Brooksí words, for I was once one of those who went absolutely mental each time I believed we caught all the mistakes, and lo and behold, one jumps out after itís gone to print. But when I thought on these words, I recall how one of my proofreaders, a very smart, well-read high school English teacher, responded when I asked her if she found any mistakes after an hour of proofreading one of my manuscripts.
Her eyes grew wide in dismay and in a panic, she said, ďOh, no! I got so caught up in the story, I forgot to look for mistakes!Ē
Now, I can spend my days, years even, scrutinizing my works, searching for every little mistake that was missed in an attempt to produce that technically perfect book. It can also mean never publishing a book because Iíll always be wondering if itís done yet; if I had caught every little thing imaginable. Or I can learn not to sweat the small things and embrace what Mr. Brooks and the English teacher had said, and focus on creating an engaging story and charismatic characters that the readers will enjoy reading about so much, theyíll gloss over the minor mistakes.
Now, this brings me back to the nice lady with the 10+ year-old WIP she was still working on. When I mentioned to a fellow writer, who was a screenwriter and author himself, about this lady who so diligently kept reworking her story. He just chuckled. He said that in his long experience/career he had known some aspiring authors who would write and rewrite; reworking their stories to mold it into what they hoped would be the next great literary masterpiece. Each time they attend a writing workshop or read the latest best-seller, they take what theyíve learned in class or apply the elements they believed made a book into a best-seller, to work it into their writing. He warned against this, that after years of reworking a story and making it into what you believe others would consider to be worthy, that this lady no doubt had lost her own voice in the storytelling process.
He said, ďYou can rewrite the manuscript over and over again, never being satisfied because you donít think itíll live up to other peopleís expectations or you can learn the skills to write and apply these to your story. Follow your creative instincts to make something youíll be happy with, one that will tell your story in your own, unique voice, that is not forced or contrived.Ē
In many ways, he was right. I can either do the best I can and accept the fact that there is so such thing as Ďperfectí or I can wallow in despair for an eternity. I can subject myself to writerís Hell, editing and re-editing, proofreading over and over again until Iím blind, cross-eyed, or both, never realizing the joy of sharing a story because Iím so fixated on publishing a piece that is technically perfect.
I mean, who am I trying to fool anyway? Iím not perfect, far from it. So instead of searching for perfection in the literary world, I strive to tell a story as best as I can, for even though my personal best is not perfect, I still think it makes for a pretty entertaining read.
The bottom-line? Just as every writer has his or her own way of telling a story whether they are plotters or pantser, or something in between, neither is there one single way of getting that manuscript to that finished, polished stage.
Writing, and the entire process involved to get to that completed stage, is as individual as the person telling the story. For some, they might never feel their story is done or that it will be good enough to share, but for me, I think Iíve come up with a process that works. So when the fans ask if the next story is done yet, relying my creative instincts, I can answer with confidence, ďYes, to the best of my abilities, it is.Ē
So, what is the proofreading/editing process like for you? And how do you know when the manuscript is done? Why not share your thoughts on Twitter?
Post a Comment new!
More Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Heidi Garrett Interview - Saturday, June 15, 2013
Loren Kleinman Interview - Saturday, June 08, 2013
Leanne Shirtliffe Interview - Saturday, June 01, 2013
Hannah Fielding Interview - Saturday, May 25, 2013
Erica Lucke Dean Interview - Saturday, May 18, 2013
Amber Lea Easton Interview - Sunday, May 12, 2013
Ruth Nestvold Interview - Saturday, May 04, 2013
Rose Garcia Interview - Saturday, April 20, 2013
Robert Pruneda Interview - Saturday, April 13, 2013
Lance Burson Interview - Saturday, April 06, 2013
Rachel Thompson Interview: - Saturday, March 23, 2013
Samantha Martin Interview - Saturday, March 16, 2013
Lisette Brodey Interview - Saturday, March 09, 2013
Jack Whyte Interview Part Two - Saturday, March 02, 2013
Jack Whyte Interview Part One - Saturday, February 23, 2013
Molly Greene Interview - Saturday, February 16, 2013
Dionne Lister Interview - Saturday, February 09, 2013
Anita Reynolds MacArthur Interview: - Saturday, February 02, 2013
Alicia Kat Dillman Interview - Saturday, January 26, 2013
John Gregory Hancock Interview - Saturday, January 19, 2013
Adriana Ryan Interview - Saturday, January 12, 2013
Jennifer McConnel Interview - Friday, January 04, 2013
S.M. Boyce Interview - Saturday, December 15, 2012
James Tallett Interview - Saturday, December 08, 2012
Melissa McPhail Interview - Saturday, December 01, 2012
Roz Morris Interview - Sunday, November 18, 2012
Tania Johansson Interview - Saturday, November 10, 2012
Dale Ivan Smith Interview - Sunday, November 04, 2012
Respect Your Readers - Sunday, October 28, 2012
Greta van der Rol Interview - Sunday, October 21, 2012
Justin Bog Interview - Saturday, October 13, 2012
Thanksgiving Day: Gratitude - Saturday, October 06, 2012
Steena Holmes Interview - Saturday, September 29, 2012
Kenneth Hoss Interview - Saturday, September 22, 2012
Patty Jansen Interview - Saturday, September 15, 2012
Joshua E. Bigger Interview - Saturday, September 08, 2012
Joyce Damask Interview - Saturday, September 01, 2012
Marketing & Twitter - Saturday, August 25, 2012
Henry Herz Interview - Saturday, August 18, 2012
Kristin Bair O'Keeffe Interview - Sunday, August 12, 2012
William Linde Interview - Saturday, August 04, 2012
Micheal Rivers Interview - Saturday, July 21, 2012
Robert James Russell Interview - Saturday, July 14, 2012
Becka Sutton Interview - Saturday, July 07, 2012
Canadian Authors Feature - Saturday, June 30, 2012
Gini Koch Interview - Sunday, June 17, 2012
M. Pax Interview - Saturday, June 09, 2012
Karina Halle Interview - Saturday, June 02, 2012
Novice Writing Mistakes - Sunday, May 27, 2012
Pippa Jay Interview - Sunday, May 20, 2012
Glenn Starkey Interview - Saturday, May 12, 2012
Maurice G. Nicholson Interview - Saturday, May 05, 2012
How I Select Followers on Twitter - Saturday, April 28, 2012
Shaun Allan Interview - Sunday, April 22, 2012
Darlene Foster Interview - Saturday, April 14, 2012
Kim Aleksander Interview - Saturday, April 07, 2012
Hope Collier Interview - Saturday, March 31, 2012
John Kolsonís Writeado: A New Online Writing Tool - Saturday, March 24, 2012
Jeff Shanley Interview - Saturday, March 17, 2012
Stephen England Interview - Saturday, March 10, 2012
Everett Powers Interview - Saturday, March 03, 2012
The Kindle Prime Experiment - Saturday, February 25, 2012
Edward Lazellari Interview - Saturday, February 18, 2012
Connie J. Jasperson Interview - Saturday, February 11, 2012
Sally Dubats - Saturday, February 04, 2012
Selecting Writers For My Author Feature - Sunday, January 29, 2012
Tarek Refaat Interview - Sunday, January 22, 2012
Toby Neal Interview: - Saturday, January 14, 2012
Thomas A. Knight Interview - Sunday, January 08, 2012
Linda Poitevin Interview - Sunday, January 01, 2012
2011: A Year in Review - Monday, December 26, 2011
Angeline Kace Interview - Sunday, December 18, 2011
Eden Baylee Interview - Saturday, December 10, 2011
Cyndi Tefft Interview - Saturday, December 03, 2011
The Conference Experience - Sunday, November 27, 2011
A.R. Silverberry Interview - Sunday, November 20, 2011
Suzy Turner Interview - Sunday, November 13, 2011
Patti Roberts Interview - Sunday, November 06, 2011
Raine Thomas Interview - Sunday, October 23, 2011
LK Gardner-Griffie Interview - Saturday, October 15, 2011
Jonathan Gould Interview - Saturday, October 08, 2011
Brian Rathbone Interview - Saturday, October 01, 2011
Matthew Merrick Interview - Sunday, September 25, 2011
Dean Lappi Interview - Saturday, September 17, 2011
J.T. Ellison Interview - Sunday, September 11, 2011
Carolyn Arnold Interview - Sunday, September 04, 2011
John Kolson Interview - Sunday, August 21, 2011
Megan Curd Interview - Saturday, August 06, 2011
Elena Aitken - Sunday, July 31, 2011
When Book Reviews are MisleadingÖ - Sunday, July 24, 2011
Deborah Riley-Magnus - Saturday, July 16, 2011
Jessica Subject Interview - Sunday, July 10, 2011
J. Alexander Greenwood Interview: - Sunday, July 03, 2011
When Social Networking is no so social... - Monday, June 27, 2011
Dannie C. Hill - Monday, June 20, 2011
Shay Fabbro Interview - Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Genevieve P. Ching Interview - Monday, June 06, 2011
Al Boudreau Interview - Monday, May 30, 2011
Jennifer Hudock Interview - Monday, May 23, 2011
Paul Mansfield Keefe Interview - Monday, May 16, 2011
Rusty Fischer Interview - Monday, May 09, 2011
Jason McIntyre Interview - Monday, May 02, 2011
Emlyn Chand & Novel Publicity - Monday, April 25, 2011
Steve Umstead Interview - Monday, April 18, 2011
John Betcher Interview - Monday, April 11, 2011
Kimberly Kinrade Interview - Monday, April 04, 2011
Inspiration & Where You Find It - Monday, March 28, 2011
Christie Yant - Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Amy J. Rose David Interview - Monday, March 14, 2011
George H. Sirois Interview - Monday, March 07, 2011
Linda Nagata Interview - Monday, February 28, 2011
Adventures in Editing or... Is it Done Yet? - Monday, February 21, 2011
Greg Messel Interview - Monday, February 14, 2011
Jen Wylie Interview - Monday, February 07, 2011
Katie M. John Interview - Monday, January 31, 2011
How Do You Measure Success: - Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Avery Tingle Interview - Monday, January 17, 2011
Kristie Cook Interview - Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Ren Cummins - Tuesday, January 04, 2011
A Wish For the New Year - Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Trish Wolfe Interview - Monday, December 20, 2010
Jesi Lea Ryan Interview - Monday, December 13, 2010
Cat Connor Interview - Monday, December 06, 2010
How to Make a Story Ring True - Monday, November 29, 2010
Sharon Bially Interview - Monday, November 22, 2010
Donna Carrick Interview - Monday, November 15, 2010
Brenda Sedore Interview - Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Robert Feagan Interview - Monday, November 01, 2010
Of Book Signings, Volunteering & Option AgreementsÖ - Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Daryl Sedore Interview - Monday, October 18, 2010
Seven Day Blog Tour Begins October 17th - Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Todd A. Ritter Interview - Monday, October 04, 2010
Cheryl Kaye Tardif Interview - Monday, September 27, 2010
Claude Bouchard Interview - Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Dr. Peter Clement Interview - Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Elizabeth Isaacs Interview - Monday, September 06, 2010
Introducing a New YA Fantasy - Monday, August 30, 2010
Interview with Author Gene Doucette - Monday, August 23, 2010
It's All About the Books Part 2 - Monday, August 16, 2010
It's All About the Books - Monday, August 09, 2010
When to Abandon Your Manuscript - Monday, August 02, 2010
1st Anniversary Blog: A Celebration of Authors - Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Kathy Chung & the SiWC Part Twp - Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Kathy Chung & the Surrey International Writers Conference Part One - Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Deanna Jewel Interview - Tuesday, July 06, 2010
The Happiest Indie Author (me) in the World! - Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The Author Effect - Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Jacqueline Pearce Interview - Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Peggy Richardson Interview - Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Wendy Nelson Tokunaga Interview - Tuesday, June 01, 2010
The Importance of a Critique Group - Saturday, May 29, 2010
Zoe Winters Interview - Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Zoe Winters Interview - Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Tonya R. Moore Interview - Monday, May 03, 2010
Write On Bowen! - Monday, April 26, 2010
Dayna Hester Interview - Monday, April 19, 2010
Luke Romyn Interview - Monday, April 12, 2010
Rhonda Carpenter Interview - Monday, March 29, 2010
Lacey Weatherford Interview - Monday, March 22, 2010
K.M. Weiland Interview - Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords Interview! - Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Jo Lynne Valerie Interview - Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Dan McNeil Interview - Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Catherine McKenzie Interview - Tuesday, February 16, 2010
8 Years of Writing! 8 eBook Winners! - Sunday, February 07, 2010
Birthday Blog (or an Ode to Aging Gracelessly) - Monday, January 18, 2010
Interview with Paranormal Author Kate Austin - Monday, January 11, 2010
Riley Carney Interview - Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Ask an Editor - Monday, December 28, 2009
Lee Edward Fodi Interview - Monday, December 21, 2009
Interview with YA Author James McCann - Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Researching Historical Fiction with Diana Gabaldon - Tuesday, December 08, 2009
kc dyer Interview & Enter to Win an Autographed Novel! - Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Bev Katz Rosenbaum Interview - Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Writing Tips I Learned from Terry Brooks - Tuesday, November 17, 2009
An Interview with Tamara Sheehan - Monday, November 09, 2009
YA Author Loreena M. Lee Interview - Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Why Do I Blog About Other Authors? - Thursday, October 29, 2009
Critique by Author Jack Whyte - Tuesday, October 27, 2009
BookCamp 2009 - Monday, October 19, 2009
Participating at VCON 34 - Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Therese Walsh Interview - Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Interview with Debra Purdy Kong - Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Twitter Ė The Power of the Tweet - Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Part Two: Publishing in a Foreign Market - Tuesday, September 15, 2009
An Interview with author Christopher Belton - Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Part Two of the Caroline Leavitt Interview: - Thursday, September 03, 2009
An Interview with Author & Book Reviewer Caroline Leavitt - Tuesday, September 01, 2009
An Interview with Kathleen Bolton - Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Interview with author/artist Scott Kessman: - Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Interview with author/artist Scott Kessman: - Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Part 2 of the Kim Falconer Interview - Thursday, August 13, 2009
An Interview with Kim Falconer - Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Part 2 An Interview with Alan Baxter - Thursday, August 06, 2009
An Interview with Alan Baxter - Tuesday, August 04, 2009
If You Write It, They Will Come (buy it)Ö Not! - Sunday, July 26, 2009
Lori A. May: Author Extraordinaire - Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Merits of a Writers Conference - Sunday, July 19, 2009
Part 2 Publishing in the Digital Age - Thursday, July 16, 2009
Publishing in the Digital Age - Monday, July 13, 2009
Writing Tips for the Novice Novelist - Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Flog the Blog - Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Do's & Don't of a TV interview - Saturday, June 27, 2009
Mortality & Writing - Friday, June 26, 2009
The Art of Editing 101 - Tuesday, June 23, 2009
How To Write When Suffering from Bad Memory Retention - Saturday, June 20, 2009
Finding Inspiration from Others - Thursday, June 18, 2009
To Blog or Twitter... - Tuesday, June 16, 2009