– You can feel it, can’t you? You’re ALMOST done with your writing! You’re wrapping the whole chapter or story up with the last few sentences, and you know that the nightmare of creation is almost at an end! And then… you put that last period at the end, and YES!!! You’re done writing! Thank the stars, you’re finally FINISHED!
Now comes the HARD part! Hehehe!
See, your creative right brain gets the big picture, and it’s totally happy to have played a major role in writing your very own story. Then your analytical left brain comes in and screws it all up, telling you everything is wrong and stupid and boring and it doesn’t make sense… it can be a real test, trying to struggle through that. Because even though you worked your asses off to put it all together, you’ve basically got to go back to the beginning and start all over from scratch!
I make writing sound like so much ‘fun’, don’t I?
Making it up isn’t easy, but making it right is much more of a challenge. So I really do suggest that you get someone else with editing skills to help you out with whatever project you happen to be working on. They can find mistakes and errors in your writing that you might not be able to find for yourself. Keep in mind that when you’re envisioning a certain scene or a character, it’s all fully fleshed out in your head. But it may not be fleshed out in your writing, which leads to your readers getting lost or confused. An editor might be able to help you find those gaps and inconsistencies in your work, as well as provide guidance on your strengths and weaknesses. So shop around a bit, and find yourself a nice fit. It may take a few tries, but you want to find someone who can help you out without being too controlling or trying to take over a story that’s meant to be yours. You also don’t want one who’s too forgiving, letting too many errors slip under the radar instead of telling you what needs to be corrected. I believe that a writer and editor should have a ‘relationship’ when it comes to creating a story. You guys have to communicate, discuss what’s going on. Let your editor know what your intentions are, and be gracious enough to listen and accept any constructive criticism that’s given. When you find the right person to bond with, you can work as a team to make the best story possible. And that’s what we’re all shooting for, right?
That being said… I, personally, do not use an outside editor! Hehehe!
I edit my own stuff (As you can probably tell from tons of horrendous mistakes) and format it by hand. For one thing, I’m so closely connected to every last word that I write that I’m sure I would drive ANY expert editor completely batshit insane with constant last minute changes and weirdness and a ton of other frustrating issues. And for another thing… my bad habits are so locked into my writing that it’s basically become my ‘style’. Hehehe, so trying to get me to change them up now would be like trying to pull Darth Vader back from the dark side. It is too late for me… my children! Also, I enjoy editing because it teaches me what my own mistakes are and I try to correct them when I’m writing anything new. Like any sports team watching their highlight reel, I get to see what’s good, what’s bad, and what I need to improve on. So that’s a plus in itself, and it brings me to the next part of this article. Self editing.
As I said above, I KNOW that editing sounds like it’s going to be a pain in the ass, but I strongly suggest that every writer do at least two self edits of their own story themselves. At LEAST two. Don’t just write until you reach the end and then hand it off to your editor saying, “Here, fix this and make it pretty!” No way. This is your project, isn’t it? You want it to be 100% you. Put some work into getting your vision to look the way you want it to look, feel the way you want it to feel. Your editor is only there to enhance what’s being given to them. To put a polish on it and catch the mistakes you can’t catch on your own. Nothing more. Editing is MORE than clicking an icon to run a spell check! (Should I repeat that? No? Good! You guys got it on the first try!) Don’t think that a computer can narrow your mistakes down to zero and you’ll have a finished product. You’re the creator, you have to create. And you have to do it more than once. For me… just ONE chapter of a story, from writing to edit to second edit to ‘glossy’ stuff, takes me about a week to ten days. Just one. “Billy Chase” chapters are much, much smaller, and might only take three days or so. But, mistakes and all, if I can write three chapters in a month, maybe four, I’m right on target. But the extra time spent is usually worth it. So, even if you’re tired, or don’t want to do it, or are just anxious to post your story and don’t want to wait any longer… I suggest you take a breather, go back to the beginning, and work your way through it again.
And when I say take a breather… I really mean ‘take a breather’. Let it rest. Don’t finish the story at 10:15 and start editing at 10:20. Give yourself 24 hours to just detach from what you’ve written. Maybe even longer, if necessary. It’s easy to get all happy and excited when you finish something, and the feeling and emotion is still fresh in your mind, so when you go back and start editing, everything looks perfect to you. Trust me, it isn’t. I find that putting a little distance between myself and a new chapter of anything that I’ve written can make a world of difference in what I can find and rephrase and enhance later. It’s like… giving birth to a baby. You struggle and you push and you scream and finally, ta-daa! New baby! “Here ya go, lady!” And everyone says, “Awww, that’s beautiful.” But it’s NOT beautiful! It’s wrinkled and cut and crying and covered in blood and pus and looks like some unholy creature straight out of a horror movie! LOL! BUT, you know… you’re wrapped up in the moment, so… cheers! If you handed somebody a baby like that two days later, you might be like, “Ummm, can we get this thing a BATH or something?” (Great… Comsie ruins the birthing process for all humanity…)
Take a moment to separate yourself from your writing, and then come back to it refreshed, and ready to give it an objective eye. One thing that I’ve learned in the last few years, mostly from working to completely rewrite stories for the ebooks on the site, is that there are millions of mistakes that I NEVER would have caught on to when I had originally written the story. Some of those chapters I’ve had years and years worth of ‘distance’ from them, and editing has been more like rewriting them anew than fixing up the old. So give it time. Read your story the way your audience is going to read your story. Make corrections… and before you hand it over to your editor… do it again.
Your last personal edit won’t take nearly as long as your first, but for me, it’s much more intimate. I’m a harsh judge for that first edit. I go into it with the idea that everything’s wrong! Spelling errors and phrasing errors and clumsy dialogue and misplaced punctuation… I have to whip that bad boy into shape with as harsh a punishment as I can provide. You’ve got to straighten it out, like a drill sergeant does for a juvenile delinquent who’s been sent to military school. But after that… you get to the final edit, and you get your TV sitcom parental moment with the loving hugs and the life lessons and the soft music in the background. It’s much more calm. This is when you still keep an eye out for little mistakes you might have missed, but focus more on the tone and emotional effect of your project. Did you develop the scenes with enough detail? Did you say what you wanted to say with the story as a whole? Are your characters gelling the way you wanted them to? Do you have the right flow and rhythm that you were looking for? No more rough sandpaper editing, this is your chance to run your hand along the smooth edges and see if you feel any lingering rough spots. Take your time and make sure that it ‘feels’ right. If it doesn’t, figure out how you can fix that before you release it to your audience.
A grammatically well written story doesn’t always make for a good story. I’ve got grammatically well written instructions on the back of a box of Minute Rice, and I can’t say that it ever made me ‘feel’ anything at all. Speak from your heart. Always put your best foot forward. And give every word the love and affection that it deserves. After that, if you’ve got a good editor on your side, give it over to him/her and let them put that little added magic to make it shine even brighter than it would before. If you’re lucky, you’ll have an instant classic! What could be more awesome than that?
This has been ‘Comsie Talks’ September, and if any of you authors out there have stories that you posted more than a year or two ago… go back and look at them now! What did you miss? What would you change? I’m not just talking about spelling errors, I’m talking about the feel of the story overall. If you could rewrite it today, do you think you could make it better? Food for thought! Take care, you guys! I hope this helps! And remember… stay creative!
(Editor’s Note: Mr Cality’s article was edited for publication by Pete.)