Yesterday, from when the kids went to school until late at night when my eyeballs grew scratchy and I could no longer properly look at the screen, I edited. Oh, I had breaks -picked up kids, gave snacks, handed them over to grandma, who kindly looked after them. But my mind was elsewhere –cut this? Fix that? Does it still make sense? I was in a fog –a grumpy fog at that. Have been for some days now. That’s editing.
The thing is, before I got an agent, I thought I knew what editing was. You clean up your manuscript, check the plot, language, characterization, look for typos, you strive to make your ms the best it can be.
How wrong I was. That is editing for yourself. Writing is a solitary thing. As writers, we create worlds, swim around in them until our fingers get wrinkled. Later in the process, we might include a few trusted souls to beta read for us. But ultimately, we rely on our best judgment when deciding what advice of theirs we should employ.
Editing to get published is a whole different world. Oh, the mechanics are the same, but there is a distinct difference. A book is the product of many. Yes, it’s your writing, but is no longer wholly your story. You secure an agent because you trust and want her expertise, his knowledge of what sells (rather, ought to trust her; otherwise, you have a problem).
Later, if you are luck enough to sell, you’ll have an editor, whose job is to, yes, that’s right, edit. :) This editor will have her own ideas as to what works in your story and what does not. Never mind the fact that your book will now be under the direction of a team, editors, marketing, etc.
I think most of us understand this in theory. We’re all well read; we know what is involved in getting a book on the shelves. But I do think it is hard for us writers to learn to let go. We have to trust. Trust the team of people dedicated to getting us on the shelves, trust ourselves to know what to fight for and what to let go. It isn’t easy.
And through all of this is the fact that you will have to read that wonderful, fresh, fun manuscript of yours over, and over, and over, and over… You’ll have to read your words until the characters sound like the adults in a Charlie Brown special in your head. Live in the story until it becomes as repetitive as Bill Murray’s life in Ground Hog Day. Therefore you have to love it. Love your work, and love the process of writing.
Some people say that when writing becomes work, it is no longer art, and no longer worth it. Bull. Art is not just the process of first creation. It is the molding and shaping of the work as well. The need to produce the best product that you can. A book is a collaboration. You might be the architect but you’ve got to rely and trust the entire crew to see that house built properly and built well. And ultimately, you’ve got to love not simply the process of writing, but your story to the point that you’ll stick with it through thick and thin because you want to entertain others with said story.
Since signing with my agent, I’ve probably editing my book ten times over, shaping the story, tightening things. It hasn’t always been easy, but in reading my work today, I want nothing more than to hug my agent and thank her for pushing me to creating a work better than I could have created on my own. And if I should be so fortunate as to find my story upon a bookstore shelf one day, I’ll know with out doubt what I did for love.