Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m delighted to host a guest post from Jae Dansie who writes one of my favorite blogs, Lit and Scribbles with Jae. Jae writes helpful posts about the writing process, and she always adds an element of whimsy to my morning blog reads. She’s also the artist of the only caricature (that I’m aware of) of myself as writer. One of the most surprising things about writing a blog has been the wealth of colleagues I’ve met and now call friend. Jae falls into that category. I hope you enjoy her post today on editing. She’s spot on with her advice.
By Jae Dansie
A special thanks to P.C. for inviting me to post on Author Wednesday. She’s a person I always enjoy hearing from because she has much wisdom and experience to share when it comes to this writing business.
Editing. Is it a word you dread or embrace?
I thought editing meant finding typos and grammar errors. I didn’t realize that real editing and revising was about to smack me down, and smack me hard.
I’m making this sound a lot worse than it actually is — and yet at the same time, I’m not. Thick skin should be a requirement for a serious writer, but along with that, the humility to accept that gold liquid doesn’t drip out of our pens on the first draft.
I got minor feedback from friends, worked hard on making my novel the best it could be, and queried it out. I received one or two partial requests, but in the end always rejection. I feared the idea of self-publishing, because I always thought traditional would be my path. But I had a few friends who self-published and had reasonable success. Maybe it was time to try that route.
I learned a coworker of mine did editing professionally and (thankfully) decided that if I was going to self-publish I should certainly put my novel through a professional edit. She definitely put me through the ringer, but I was hungry for improvement. Whatever it took to have the best story possible, I was determined to do it.
I learned a ton! I consider it one of the best experiences of my writing life.
When she and I were getting close to the end of my novel (at this point it was about 77,000 words) I made plans to attend the Backspace Writers Conference in NYC. I intended to give traditional publishing one more go and was especially eager to have a chance to interact with NY agents.
This brings me to…
New York City. Bustling, beautiful, and big. A fantastic place to hold a conference! I felt confident, knowing I’d had my book edited, and I’d worked hard on polishing it. I was ready to dominate this conference. Dominate, I tell you!
Only I didn’t.
If you ever need an ego smackdown, go talk to NY agents about your book. They aren’t purposefully mean, just profusely honest. It hurt. I had to go into the ladies’ room immediately after the session to let tears fall I had desperately held in. I attended a couple more one-on-one sessions that pointed out the same mistakes. The bottom line: I wasn’t ready for publication, and I knew it.
I learned a lot from the conference. I took home many gold nuggets of wisdom. The problem was I still thought I was in control of my timeline. I wanted to be published. Yesterday, please! But my story just wasn’t ready. It took me a few weeks to come to terms with that. I played video games like crazy, leaving my novel locked in a drawer until I was ready.
I know, you were hoping I only had two major smacks to endure. Remember what I said about thick skin and humility? The first two smacks gave me humility and I came to appreciate the feedback I received.
I spent the whole summer after the conference rewriting my novel. It got a serious makeover, with major changes in plot, character, and structure. It was still the story I wrote, and yet not. But it had evolved to something greater and it made all that pain from NYC worth it.
I heard about a contest called Pitch Wars. The “winner” would be mentored by either a published author or industry professional. The mentor would read the whole thing, give feedback, and work to help the entrant polish a pitch and the first 250 words for participating agents. Elation! I got selected!
Then came the feedback. Encouraging, but very thorough. My mentor is a particularly fantastic editor. She found weaknesses I’d been blind to and once I’d carefully considered her words, I realized I had a slightly ominous task before me. I had a month to make revisions before the contest deadline.
Did I get any agent requests? I did. A full. Ultimately she passed, but I still came home a winner. I had a much stronger story than I had both before the NYC conference and after. Success!
THE SMACK CONTINUES
A more naive version of me would love to tell you that you’ll outgrow this pesky need for editing. That at some point you won’t have to edit anymore, because your skill will be so great. But the more seasoned me knows that isn’t true — at least it shouldn’t be, not if you’re fully committed to your craft.
I’m currently in the midst of more revisions. I had a good friend critique my whole book and guess what? She found more weaknesses. But I’m not discouraged. In fact, I think this time will be the version ready for publication.
Instead of fearing feedback and change, I embrace it. I enjoy the editing process. I’ve enjoyed seeing what the story has become and how much stronger it now is. I could no more separate it from the writing process than I could cut all sleep from my life. It is necessary and the sooner I learned to embrace it, the happier my writing life became.
Embrace the editing. Do it for your readers, but above all, do it because your story deserves to be the best it can possibly be. After all, it chose you to tell it. Tell it well.
And that’s why I love Jae Dansie so much. She’s honest, and she understands what it takes to be an author. I can’t wait to see her final work after all the smackdowns. Thank you, Jae, for sharing your experience with us today.
About Jae Dansie: Jae is a graphic designer, doodler, and writer. Jae wrote her first novel when she was 14 and has probably written a dozen or so in between which she calls “practice.” She’s in a love/hate relationship with her current novel SHADE but knows it’ll all be worth it in the end. When Jae isn’t doodling (she calls it scribbling) and obsessing over her WIP, she likes to karaoke, travel, and tantalize her tastebuds with tasty new treats. You can find Jae on her blog at Lit and Scribbles, or out patrolling the streets for truth, justice and the American way.