Remember how I talked about the Editor, and all his nasty tricks we were keeping locked away in November? And then in December, we might let him out, but we were letting that project rest at least for a little while?
It’s January now. And the editing beast, snarling and slathering, is ready to drip its red ink blood all over your manuscript.
(At least, this is basically how I feel about editing.)
Someone asked me in the comments of one of my earlier posts to talk about revision and editing, and my process essentially for all of that. And I wish I had a good answer, but if my one major manuscript is anything to be considered reference material, my pattern appears to be “write book, wait two years, go back and read book, decide it’s awful, completely scrap book and start over, repeat process.” It’s why I have so many started manuscripts and only one finished. It’s not for specific love of that world (though I have come to love Alistair and his people a great deal) nor for that story. It’s just that it was the one I managed to hold onto the longest, and once it had gotten further than the others, it became the only project reasonable to work with.
Most of the classic adages are true. Wait a while before revising, so that you’re not as close to the manuscript as you were when you wrote it. (This means a few months, not the years I’m prone to doing.) Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. There are bunches of scenes that I absolutely loved, and concepts I cared about, that got cut from what will be the final draft of REVOLUTION. That’s the way it goes. Getting someone else to read your work is good, getting a few people is better. Editors are great, but sometimes you need to find just a reader. Ask a friend, someone you know will be honest with you, and just have them read it. Get a feel for the story. You can always have your critique partners and beta readers catch all the editing mistakes. Sometimes it’s nice to just have an overview of the story.
That being said, when your editors come back and say “So it’s good, but you really need to make XYZ happen” and you know in your heart that there’s no chance that it makes any sense in your vision of the book for that to happen, don’t be afraid to say no. In the end, this is your book, and you need to be satisfied before anyone else. I had a mentor–someone I care for, and respect his opinion–who has published far more than I likely ever will, tell me that I needed to give Alistair a romantic interest (probably his roommate since the homoerotic sexual tension was SO evident), there needed to be sex, and everyone should probably die at the end.
And I knew full well that neither Jace nor Alistair were interested in men, let alone each other, and that there was no chance AC was going to have a romantic interest and CERTAINLY not sex after his driving belief in the book is guilt over his last relationship, and that everyone dying at the end made little to no sense and I didn’t care that this was a dystopian setting, not everyone needed to die.
So I told him no.
He told me the book needed to be cut down to a third of its size.
I told him no.
And when I presented the book to my defense committee, none of those things were topics they brought up. I held my own, and defended my novel concept, and I won. This has been the most useful lesson I’ve ever learned for editing. Sometimes, the experts are wrong. Sometimes, you know your book better than anyone else. NOW. This is not to say that you should always ignore advice you don’t like. But just like with doctors, feel free to get a second or third opinion. Now, if all of your beta readers come back and say “uh, maybe XYZ should be added,” then maybe think about if this is a darling you need to murder.
All in all, just don’t give up. Never give up, never surrender. Editing is rough. You will feel like you are a hack and you never should have tried writing in the first place. You will wonder why you ever thought this story was a good idea. You’ll think anyone who’s ever encouraged you must have been paid off by someone.
You’re not a hack.
You should always be writing.
The story is (probably) a good idea.
And no one was paid off to tell you that.
The editing beast, jaws crimson with ink, dripping from its fangs, will always be there. And it will rip your manuscript to shreds. And it is our job to pick up those shreds and rebuild it. Because if we don’t, the beast wins. And we should never let the beast win.