Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Melanie Foster Guest Blogs on Honest Editing
We have a guest blogger today! I love it when I find someone else to tell writers they must be committed to editing. It sounds less self-serving than when I do it for myself. (-: Be sure to leave Melanie a comment or idea!
A lesson in honest editing
By Melanie Foster
Every writer needs to learn how craft the narrative they so badly want to tell, but it's a task easier said than done. When a writer has a story or an imagine burning an impression in their mind, all they want to do is get it out on paper as clearly as possible so as not to lose the essence of that vivid idea. A good writer will let this passion take over them and write until they can't stop, trying to capture and preserve every detail of that oh-so-precious inspiration. The urge to write strikes people at the strangest and often most unexpected of times, and it's critical to take advantage of such an incident.
But the writing process doesn’t end there. In popular culture, the writer often exclaims that they've completed a masterwork once they've written the prose derived from such an episode of inspiration. They spent all night writing—you know the montage—and the next morning, poof, they have a manuscript ready for submission.
Real writing doesn’t happen like this, because a real writer would never think of submitting their work before editing it. Editing is the yin to writing's yang, but so few authors talk about the importance it has in the process. The reality is that the hastily written manuscript will never see the light of day if it isn't shaped, polished, and shaved to became the great work it deserves to be.
As you might imagine, I have a few recommendations for new writers unfamiliar with editing their work.
Embrace editing as an integral part of the writing process
The first step a new writer must take when editing their work is to acknowledge that it's part and parceling of the entire writing process. No writer can write fiction, essays, poetry, or anything else without having a few slip-ups along the way. We are only human and we make mistakes incessantly, especially in our writing. Often writers (such as myself) get so caught up in the writing process that we neglect to see how our writing might be perceived by the reader.
That's the main goal of editing: to ensure that a body of work reads well and mirrors the author's original intent for it. The sooner that a writer embraces this truth, the easier the editing process will be.
Take the advice from accomplished authors
I find that reading about the writing woes of accomplished authors makes me feel much better when I find myself swamped with edits and rewrites. Like so many struggling writers, I idolize the writing "greats" who inspired me to pursue my passion; I rarely if ever imagine them struggling to craft their masterpieces. Rather I imagine that their work comes to them naturally. So it's refreshing to hear about trials and tribulations those authors endure; it humanizes them.
I recently read a piece in Brain pickings (a fabulous blog, by the way) that featured some humble writing and editing advice from novelist superstar Zadie Smith. I'd like to share some of her points relevant to editing:
1. When an adult, try reading your work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
2. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
3. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won't make your writing any better than it is.
Such advice is like a breath of fresh air for writers struggling to mold their words into something meaningful. Creating an entire world with words is a seemingly superhuman task that few can master. Without the discipline to edit those words and pare them down to a respectable size, there's no way one can hope to succeed in such an effort.
Melanie Foster writes about world education, online education technologies, and general writing advice for onlinephdprograms.com. Melanie is interested in the way that online technologies, specifically mobile technologies, will shape the next generation of learners. Feel free to send Melanie any comments or questions you might have!
----- Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-: