Writing vs Editing

10% Writing, 90% Editing

It’s easy to get caught up in the dream of writing, envisioning oneself in a montage furiously typing away into the night before slapping the keyboard with a flourish and leaning back to stare at a finished manuscript.

Sometimes, it really feels that way as you write the final word of a rough first draft. You lean back and realize there is a story with a beginning, middle, and end on the screen. It might even be relatively cohesive!

It’s at this stage that I like to remind myself that I’m 10% done.

This was the easy part, the fun stage. Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than a simple click of the Spell Check button to progress from the rough, to finished, draft.

Now I’m faced with responsibility. The success of the story hinges on these next steps. I have to edit. I have to revise. I have to rewrite. I have to cut, or maybe add! Perhaps I need to insert a character I never planned for, and the ramifications extend beyond a single scene to multiple chapters.

I need feedback. I need some trusted alpha readers to peruse the pages I’ve worked so excitedly to produce and give me brutal, sometimes gut-wrenching, honest feedback. I need to absorb it all, and tell that pesky ego to shut the fuck up, beacuse this isn’t about me. This is about the story, now.

Time passes. My alpha readers respond.

I’ll need to ponder that feedback carefully. What do I want to change to appease my target audience’s expectation of how the narrative unfolds? What needs to be adjusted to account for my character’s personality, and the way they’re developing from one page to the next?

Not to mention plot holes I somehow missed, having gone page-blind from staring at my words so intensely for as long as I had.

And So It Truly Begins!

I take a deep breath and begin to make changes. I edit the hours and weeks away. Then I set it up on a virtual shelf and close down the software (after saving multiple copies in various locations - hard lessons learned…) and step away - sometimes for days, sometimes months.

I return to it with fresh eyes and read it as a member of my own audience. I make more changes. I bring on a copy editor. We fix grammatical issues, period phrasings, character voices.

I send it back out to alpha readers - some the same, some new. I get their feedback. Again, I check that clingy ego at the door and open myself to the raw truth of the story’s reception.

I ruminate for a time as my day to day grind pushes ever forward. I don’t attempt to edit again, not yet - instead, I let the ideas run wild. I forget more than I remember, but what I remember - those are things I know I want to incorporate.

Weeks pass, and I’m ready to take another pass at the story. Another montage ensues, longer than the first. I can feel the page-blindness setting in but I push on. I have virtual corkboards and other software set up to help me manage these characters, cities, events, timelines. All of this helps keep me sane.

I’m ready for another professional edit. The results are better this time, the feedback in line with expectations. Even still, there are more revisions to be made.

From Alpha To Beta

My story is now Feature Complete. There’s still refining to do, but all the major and minor components of my story arc are present. The characters develop appropriately as they follow that arc. There is tension, drama, comedic relief, sorrow, and excitement all roughly where I want them to be - but they could still be conveyed better!

I take on a final professional editing pass. This one less focused on seeking out typos and more so on solidifying everything into a cohesive, satisfying jumbalaya of literary goodness.

I make final tweaks. How long has passed since I first sat down to write the opening paragraph?

Years, it turns out, for my stories. I don’t dwell on the fact that many authors churn out one or two books a year. They write full time, and they’re very skilled.

My story is now in Beta. I get a few casual readers, those who will be happy to tell me if they liked it, but who aren’t interested in providing an academic write-up of their review. I gauge their interest in this beta product of mine.

Perhaps I tweak it again. Now, I have a Finished Draft.

The Blurb!

Still, I’m not done. I need a blurb! I need a cover, spine, back. Do I want an audio-book version of the cover? What dimensions? Paperback, Trade Paperback, Hardcover, eBook only?

I start with the blurb. I’ve had one from the get-go, but after all of the changes to the story, the epic new arc or characters I hadn’t planned on, it’s lacking. A new one is necessary.

I find writig it more difficult than the entirety of the novel I’ve just completed - Every. Single. Time.

After all, I need to hook a reader in a few sentences. If the cover draws them in, that blurb may well be the deciding factor for a purchase, or a pass.

I write a blurb. I delete it. I write another. Recyling Bin. A third, fourth, fifth. I share it with some of my alpha readers, to varying degrees of “meh”.

I research blurb writing techniques online - it’s mostly the same advice I know by heart, but still I seek it out, hoping for a moment of enlightenment.

Indeterminate time passes, and finally I have a blurb I’m satisfied with. Did I already commission my cover?

Time to continue prepping for self publishing. How do I want to market the book?

I long for that 10%, when I was discovering this new world as the words hit the page; where I met fascinating new characters for the first time, joined them on their journey and shared in their struggles.

Thankfully my brain doesn’t like to hone in on one thing for too long - I’m writing three to four stories at once, at any given time. During all that downtime, I’ve been spending my 10% in other tales. Life is good.