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What I Learned About Writing This Week…from Getting Edited

Ohhhh, my dear inklings. I did a scary, scary thing.

I let go of my baby, my precious, my sweet toddling kiddo. I sent my tender little one out into the world, went back into the comfort of my home, and closed the door. And then, I sat back and waited in agony.

What is this kid-into-the-world metaphor really about?

It’s about how I gave my novel Colors of Deception over to my editor.

Getting Edited — Oh, The Horror!

Aaron and I both talk a lot about beta readers, why they’re important, who makes a great beta reader, and so forth. The plain and simple truth is that no novel is ever going to be very good if the writer is the only one who reads it. We writers just aren’t capable of seeing the flaws in our stories; we need a fresh set of eyes and a more objective brain to read our novels and tell us where we need to fix something.

That’s where the beta readers come in. I don’t know about y’all, but I love my betas. They’re opinionated and delightful. They’re delighted every time I give them something new to read. They praise me, but they keep me honest. It’s been a long time since I’ve feared handing them a story.

But letting an editor read my work? That is a different story.

Beta readers read like readers.

I don’t think editors read that way.

An editor is not a beta reader. An editor is an editor: one whose job it is to make the novel better. An editor helps turn the story into something that non-beta-readers will actually want to read. An editor has the skills and the objectivity to pick the story apart — and then tell you, the writer, how to put it back together again.

Dear inklings, that’s a prospect this writer finds a bit terrifying.

Getting Edited — Oh, The Horror?

But if I want to be published (and oh, yes, you bet yer patootie I want that), my work must face an editor. If I want to be published (and have I mentioned that I do?), I must slice the apron strings to shreds and let an editor spirit my novel away to some dark, scary castle where all sorts of I-don’t-know-what happens.

Fellow writers, this is our reality.

Harsh, ain’t it?

So I did it. I let Jessie take my book away for awhile and do her editing thing. Because we’re using shared Google docs, I could have opened the document at any time to see what editorial marks she was making and what notes she was leaving in the margin of the manuscript.

But I didn’t do that. I was too nervous. I opened the document once, saw a phrase Jessie had highlighted, and clicked the little “X” in the corner before I caught another glimpse. It was just too scary. I imagine this is the way a parent would feel, taking a peek at the rigors of their kiddo’s first day at boot camp.

Then, yesterday morning, Jessie sent me an email. She was finished. In her first paragraph, she praised my story, naming several elements she particularly enjoyed. Next, she delineated some specifics on how I could make the story better. She was clear, objective, and honest. And as I pondered each of her points, I thought to myself:

Hmm. Maybe this isn’t so bad, after all.

Getting Edited — Oh Yeah

When I finished reading Jessie’s email, I was more than ready to delve into the manuscript itself and peruse those editorial marks that had shocked my system once upon a time. And, wonder of wonders, that wasn’t so bad, either!

Jessie highlighted something she recommended striking. I read the sentence over several times and discovered that she was right: The deletion would make that whole paragraph flow better. She noted where I’d misused a slang term. I looked it up on urbandictionary.com and laughed at myself for the glaring error. She noted a place in the story that confused her, and I had to admit that I needed to clarify.

And suddenly, my fingers were just itching for a pen with which to mark up the hard copy lying on my table.

My dearest inklings, I confess to you: Getting edited might be scary — but it’s pretty darn cramazing, too.

I can draw only one conclusion from this. It’s a thing I’ve known for a long time. But knowing something is wholly different from experiencing it. I am seeing how principle functions in reality, and as with so many other things about this adventure we call the Writing Life, it truly is glorious.

Courage is always worth it.

And that’s WILAWriTWe.

2 Responses to “What I Learned About Writing This Week…from Getting Edited”

  1. I must admit that when I was younger I would cry whenever somebody gave me constructive criticism. They thought my story was terrible! Now I know that it’s good for me and I crave it like a thick slice of chocolate cake (which, ironically, isn’t good for me).
    Thanks for saying nice things about me. I know Colors of Deception is going to be an awesome book, and it would have been whether or not you had let me put my paws on it.

  2. Jessie, at least you let people give you constructive criticism. When I was younger, the only person I trusted was my mom. She was honest in her feedback, yes, but she always couched the criticism in gentleness. Not every beta reader does that!

    And you are quite welcome. :) I won’t venture to say whether or not Colors would have been an awesome book without your editing…but I can say for sure that your feedback is already helping me make it better than it was!

    So thank you for the chocolate. *yum*

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