On The Editing Process

On editing:

And so my blog entries have slowed a little lately because I am in the home-stretch for the Slash of Crimson edits. Keeping up with writing, editing, blog entries, submissions and reading other writers’ blog entries can be very time consuming. If you’ve also got a family and full time job and a temperamental old house as I do, it can be some rather acrobatic juggling to do even half of it.

And yet, I remain excited about the momentum behind this novella release. In truth, it is a prologue to the first book in The Crimes of Heaven and Hell series. That book came close to publication a year or so ago while being representated by agent Robert L. Fleck. As it stands now, Wake The Wicked will come out sometime after the novella, after certain edits are made and its current state of suspended animation in a demonic Calypso’s cave comes to a conclusion. At that time its ‘cold’ manuscript will be brought to the re-animator’s table looking for a new body and destination. Which brings me to the main purpose of this current blog entry—that is, a few observations on the editorial process. I will come at it by breaking a writer’s relationship with editing into roughly three stages:

Stage 1: Fool Editor Knows Nothing: In this stage, the young writer (or writer young in craft) views criticisms of a story as the jibes of a foolish editor who just doesn’t get young writer’s brilliance. Whether the sentences are too long or short, pace too slow or fast, exposition plentiful or absent, clearly it is the editor’s fault that he or she doesn’t get it. In this stage, the writer might ignore the editor’s comments completely. This of course, works out to the writer’s great loss—loss of time and pace of development with his or her craft.

Stage 2: Oh My God I Suck:  In This Stage, the writer knows the reader is not telepathic unless the writer has made them so through crystal-clear prose. If an idea is not conferred or understood, the writer will bang his or her head against the piano keys and wish they hadn’t taken so many psychedelic drugs back in the 1990’s, or at least, better quality, organic stuff… Writer sees the errors after a few of their own read-throughs, sees how they match many of the editor’s comments. This sometimes results in erring on the side of too much humility (a disguised version of the earlier state of being full of oneself; to go back to Blake “Shame is pride’s cloak”). The risk here is forgetting that there may be some worth in the originality of style and its flavor so long as the writer keeps an ear open to the worthy constructive criticism laced in between the inaccurate stuff.

Which leads to the last stage:

Stage 3: Accuracy and Objectivity: In this stage, the writer has learned possibly the most valuable trick: figure out how to get more than one editor, or ideally, more than two, to review the manuscript. Find out where the editors’ criticisms match and there you likely have some accurate information (e.g., if three out of four competent readers say Chapter 3 doesn’t work, it probably doesn’t). That doesn’t mean one should ignore comments from solo editors who know how to rock the comment-pen. Instead, the writer in Stage 3 has developed a sense of balance and patience, of pacing and dramatic gesture. Thus it is possible to separate the important comments from the unimportant comments with a discriminating eye. And if a certain comment remains blurry, we might put to use Tony O’Neill’s saying, “When in doubt, cut it out.” Either way, the story must live and breathe, and all edits must aim to make the reader thirst to turn the page.

4 responses to “On The Editing Process

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