What do you think of when you hear the word “edit”?
Manuscripts bleeding red ink, perhaps, coupled with the desire to weep, wail, or consume copious amounts of chocolate as you mutter dark things about the editor, critique partner, or contest judge who gave you the constructive criticism?
Or do you get excited, knowing that putting our work through an edit will make it better?
I used to be employed as a copy editor, so can you guess which response I have?
Nope. I don’t do a happy dance. Not at first anyhow.
Here’s the four-step process I go through when I receive edits.
1. Emotional response. During this phase I often experience doubts and discouragement. This may last a few hours if the suggested changes are minor or a few days if major work is needed.
2. Adjustment period. In this step I set the comments aside and allow my feelings to bleed off while my subconscious gets to work processing the input.
3. Return to reality. At this point rational thought returns, and I’m ready to tackle the revisions. I read through them and form a plan of attack.
4. Excitement ensues. Because I enjoy editing as much as, if not more so than, writing a first draft, I have fun figuring out how to carry out the needed changes and watching my story improve. By allowing myself the adjustment period before diving in, I’m able to be more objective and make the myriad decisions required
My agent, Rachelle Gardner, addressed the importance of editing in her post, “Master the Craft of Writing.” She believes more of the editing responsibility is going to fall on writers as publishers are forced to reduce their editorial staffs and advises us to keep working on craft so we can produce quality stories readers will enjoy. She also discusses the importance of getting the best editing or proofreading we can afford.
The editor in me rejoiced when I read this post. I’ve long believed that we writers would be wise to learn everything possible about copy editing our own work, because agents and editors are more likely to be interested in manuscripts free of minor, avoidable mistakes.
I’m thankful there are many great blogs where we can do just that. Two more awesome resources are the Chicago Manual of Style, which most fiction publishers use, and the Associated Press Stylebook used by non-fiction and magazine publishers.
How do you respond to feedback from critique partners, contest judges, etc.?
Do you enjoy the editing process, or is it something you merely endure?
Novelist Keli Gwyn is a California native who lives in the Gold Rush-era town of Placerville in the Sierra Foothills. Her stories transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. She enjoys visiting her fictional worlds, the Coach outlet store, and Taco Bell.