Line Editing Blues

Well, not blues actually, but that caught your attention, didn’t it?

One of my beta readers for the novel I’ve been working on exclusively this summer not only sent comments back but a line-edit of the manuscript as well. And here’s the lesson learned: No matter how great an editor you are (and I have thirty-plus years’ experience editing other people), you cannot use yourself as your final editor. This beta reader didn’t find many typos (my bane), but she did find overuse of words, overextended dialogue, and over-explaining. However, those incidents of “overage” weren’t pervasive, just here and there, and I can make those fixes, easy-peasy.

Her general comments as well were good, and here’s another lesson. There is one suggestion she made, with which, right now, I disagree. It’s the merest hint of a new relationship for one of the characters at the very end of the work, and since I’m a sucker for happy endings (I didn’t get one), I don’t want to cut that. Don’t get me wrong. I respect this writer’s opinion, but for now I’m leaving it as is (maybe a little editing to make it even more subtle, though). I am, however, open to cutting it completely based on additional feedback.

When you’re open to feedback from others, especially people whose writing you respect and admire, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how their comments/edits improve your work. When I saw this beta reader’s line-edits, I smacked my forehead so often I may have given myself a concussion. They were obvious, so why didn’t I see them?

Duh, because it’s my work, and don’t you know my words are all gems?

Except when they aren’t. That’s why we’re word-blind for our own stuff. You can edit and revise, revise and edit, and then someone else still points out something you need to fix. These aren’t “happy to glad” edits; they tighten the work, they make the story more tense and intense, and they improve the overall product. I am forever grateful, and she and the other beta readers will be high on the list in the Acknowledgement section of the published work. When this novel gets published (I’m being positive, here), I know it will be in large part because these fellow writers helped make it publishable.

So, Indie authors, the next time you decry the use of professional editing and/or the use of beta readers because you think they’ll ruin your stellar work, think again. Let’s open our minds to the possibility they can make a good work brilliant.

Obsessive Manuscripts

Well, I finally finished the line-edit of the rewrite of my rough NaNoWriMo 2012 manuscript. Actually, it was two line-edits: a mark-up of a printed copy of the MS, and an on-screen edit after I’d incorporated the first set of line edits. I reached the point where I was tweaking the tweaks or making what, as a magazine editor, I used to call “happy to glad changes.” Enough was enough. I stopped editing and sent a copy off to four writer friends who had agreed to be beta readers.

So, what did I learn, aside from remembering not to do “happy to glad” changes?

Well, for one thing, I found I can re-write a 400-page manuscript in two months’ time, but only if I do little else except that.

Excessive use of dialogue tags is great for padding your NaNoWriMo word count but tedious when you’re editing.

A manuscript can take over your life. You think about it when people are talking to you about something else. You dream about it. You bore other people explaining about how you decided to cut a whole chapter because it didn’t really add to the story. It intrudes when you’re trying to write about something else, and you feel guilty when you’re paying attention to it and not other writing projects. Then, you feel guilty when you’re working on other writing projects and not it. It (the MS) obsesses you; you’re obsessed with it; it’s an obsession.

And that’s a good thing.

I suppose.

No, no, it is, it is. Really. But, even after you’ve sent it off to the beta readers, you still think you should be editing it. Nothing big comes to mind. No plot holes except those you’ve already found, but it’s hard to be patient and wait for the betas’ comments.

I have to say, though, I’m really, really proud of this manuscript. I like the characters, the story, the settings, the twists and turns. I’m glad what started out as a suggestion in a comment on a 100-word Friday Fictioneers story turned into a 385-page, fully developed novel not involving spies and guns and intrigue.

Don’t get me wrong. I won’t ever stop writing about those things. Rather, the change of pace was challenging, and I hope I met the challenge. We’ll see. It’s another of those things you have to be patient about.

Did I mention I’m not a very patient person? I’m more the “why wait for it when you can go out and get it done” kind of person. (Of course, as anyone who knows me will allude to, I’ll think it to death before I act on it.) I’m more than eager to get this MS before some agents, but I also want those agents to see the best possible manuscript; so, patience it is.

Sigh.

Friday Fictioneers Work up a Storm!

I actually feel a bit odd not having a writing conference to go to this weekend. In fact, I don’t have another one until October, which will close out my year of writing conferences/workshops until January of next year, when it all starts all over again.

This week and this weekend will be consumed with my line edit of the rewrite of the draft of the novel whose excerpt went over very well in this past June’s Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop. Several of my classmates from that workshop and the 2012 one have agreed to read the MS and provide feedback, so I hope to get that process started next week.

And I haven’t forgotten I need to do an in-depth post on last weekend’s “A Gathering of Writers” in North Carolina.

I am worried, though, that I’ve been so focused on editing/revising (which is important, don’t get me wrong) I’ve not been able to do much original stuff of length. I love flash, and I’m always inspired by the prompts from the two flash exercises I participate in weekly. Rather, I need to expand a little and go back to pieces that are longer–considerably–than 100 or so words. After all, NaNoWriMo is just two months away, so I need to get into the habit of at least 1,700 words–a day!

Friday Fictioneers LogoToday’s Friday Fictioneers photo I’m sure has inspired many different genres, but for some reason it led me to one of my favorite genres to read–the ghost story, i.e., the subtle ghost story. Don’t let the title, “Socratic Method,” put you off. As usual, if you don’t see the link on the story title in the line above, scroll to the top of the page, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, and select the story from the drop-down list.

Friday Fictioneers–and a Finish!

The first rewrite of my “Tinker Mountain” manuscript is done! Woo-hoo! I worked for the most part of twelve hours the other day and got it in the can. Scrivener has a great tool–Compile–which, after a couple of mouse-clicks, renders a fully formatted manuscript. In my case it came to 398 pages. Oi! Too much for either of my printers, so a quick email to my local Staples, and I had a copy.

Oh, I was so tempted to pick up my red pen and dig in! Patience, though. I want to set it aside for a week or two, get it out of my head, then delve into the line edit. I have some decisions to make: Do I want to show the bad guy (who seduces one girl and rapes another on the same day) exhibiting some redeeming quality? As in, he saves the men in his unit from a German machine gun assault on D-Day? Or do I just acknowledge this as fact and let his egregious behavior stand on its own? Rather than just show another character’s “fatal flaw” (the fact he can’t keep his fly zipped when a younger woman is around), do I include some back story to explain why he is the way he is?

So, those thoughts, and more, will be bouncing around inside my head for the next couple of weeks. I hope they’ll be resolved by the time I sit down with the red pen.

Friday Fictioneers LogoToday’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt comes from a place I’ve been lucky to visit twice–our 50th state, Hawaii. It’s an incredible shot from Mauna Kea on the Big Island, across the ocean, to the smaller island of Maui. Truly beautiful, and it was very inspirational. I love Hawaii, with the mixture of modern, urban life and native Hawaiian spirituality. And where else can you get up close and personal with extinct and not-so-extinct volcanoes?

I hope you enjoy “Free Flight,” and, as usual, if you don’t see the link on the title, scroll to the top of the page, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, then select the story from the drop-down list.