Most of us think of editing as a job for someone else - and dread it! This week's guest poster, Milissa R Bailey, makes a persuasive argument in favour of self editing. Enjoy!
She Devil She Is – Self Editing
Invading my nostrils with bitter, acrid stench I knew without a moment’s hesitation the bane of my literary existence was within reach. Her penchant for deftly reaching into my work, ripping from it the very heartbeat of the message and snipping it into little pieces of pabulum was an art known only to the most wretched of life’s ambassadors of doom, better known to most authors as self editing.
I write for the passion of telling a story. And when I write, like so many of my fellow authors, we want to paint that picture as accurately as possible. We want the reader to see, breath, taste, yes even chew the story. But in this birthing process, where words flood, gush, sometimes rush to the surface, we find ourselves overloading the reader, sinking our own proverbial ship of synonyms. Then it comes to pass, you glance back upon your handy work and it is time to take scalpel in hand and edit.
I will be the first to admit when I gaze upon my handy work I think, “How can I remove such a wonderful scene?” The work that went into the intricately woven fabric of character banter, posturing and laying of groundwork promising to build to a fabulous crescendo... But alas.
[h3]Making the Story Better[/h3]
However, the secret many of us discover after our first significant purge… almost without fail, the story becomes, well, better. I know, I know, hard to admit as it is the question you need to ask yourself, “Does this scene contribute to the story?” Or is it just a beautifully written sideline only sustaining your desire to be eloquent?
Self editing, she devil that she is, has actually become a “freeing” experience for this writer. No, I have not been seduced into the dark side. But rather gleaning your work also frees the reader to take in what you truly want them to in your written world. You’ve heard it before, you don’t need to “spoon feed” your readers. Giving a reader “just enough” is the key.
Granted some will say hitting the reader over the head with the obvious story line, beating them into the ending has made for some very successful authors. That I cannot argue. But as an avid reader and one who loves trying to solve the mystery ahead of the words on the page, the tease, hint, promise of what I’m reading between the lines is much more enticing.
Okay, I will admit, when slicing and dicing a scene, I tuck it away, both mentally and physically (what do you think copy and paste was meant for?) Justification for said act? I may use it in another venture, or glean from it later. Plus is makes things a little less painful.
One of the biggest traps I find myself in, falling in love with secondary characters. And with that comes the nagging desire to tell the reader about them. I’ve overcome this addiction by allowing myself to write said detail and then moving the excess baggage to another book. Cheating perhaps, but whatever it takes to get the flow going, I’m all for it!
Yes, there have been times where it has been a near death experience to strip the flaws and foibles of a beloved character from the pages. “How could anyone reading this book not want to know this?” Come on, you know what I’m talking about.
Thankfully the “no pain no gain” has worked well. The cast offs have spurred storylines never thought of before, causing this author to take pause. True believer in the mantra “everything happens for a reason,” I take solace in someday the she devil’s handiwork will be for the greater good. Dramatic, yes. But as many a writer will tell you, this casting off of sorts can be physically and emotionally draining.
Take the leap; embrace your inner editor
Step one: The sentence reads fine without all the “extras” DELETE
Step two: The scene is fluff, not that it isn’t beautifully written, but, you’re not making a quilt here. You’re weaving a story!
Step three: Breathe, you’re doing great!
Self editing - Necessary Nemesis.
Milissa's latest book, Gracier, can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
What are your thoughts about editing - self or otherwise? Please share your thoughts in the comments below - and with your friends, using the handy buttons!