Monday, February 6, 2012

Dear Writers Step away from the keyboard

I teach an entire workshop on revising, CAN THIS MANUSCRIPT BE SAVED.

You would think that would SAVE ME from over-writing, over-editing, over-tweaking...but last Saturday, once I had all the "tweaks" my editor wanted clear in my head...I still went overboard. When I realized some insane writer had taken over my normally calm and conservative brain, I yanked my fingers off the keyboard and stepped away from the computer.

Why do normally efficient writers do crazy things?

Who knows. LOL But I can tell you why I'd crossed over into the dark side.

1.  I wanted to get it done too quickly. I just really wanted this done, so I dove into the book and started changing things -- which means --

2. I broke my number 1 rule: Read the entire manuscript before you change anything.

When you make changes before you read your manuscript the potential exists that the fixes you make could really and truly mess up something that comes later in the story.

You can also go overboard with a change. At one point on Saturday, I added a little scene my editor wanted to see toward the end of the book and in my punch-drunk enthusiasm I thought, Wow, this means I can totally change the ending to...

And that's when I stopped. Why? Because I didn't need a new ending! I needed a tweak before the ending.

So I stepped away. And even took Sunday off to clear my head. Because I'd literally gone through most of the book on Saturday...reading as I was wildly changing...I now knew the book again and knew what changes needed to be made and I took out most of the things I'd done on Saturday. And got myself back on track. I made the tweaks in three days and the book went in on Thursday.

I don't merely tell you this to show you that even after many, many books you can still go crazy. (Though you should see that lesson!) I tell you this to demonstrate that you really, really, really need to read your entire book through when you get editor changes.

Yes, you can mark spots with postit notes as you're reading.
Yes, you can mark places on your hard copy where grammar and sentence structure need to be fixed...or maybe a typo.

But really, you don't want to be making changes until you've read that whole book through! Not just because the changes you make can really screw things up...but also because once you read the whole book through with the editor's comments in mind, you can come up with the BEST answers/fixes for your story.

In the end, that's your real goal. Not just to fix the turkey, but to turn it into a swan or an eagle or whatever kind of bird you really like. :P

Happy Monday!



Julia Broadbooks said...

Really such excellent advice. Some days it's a fine line between editing and flailing about making random changes. Sadly that line is way more visible in retrospect.

mj compton said...

I listened to your workshop last week (from RWA conference). Today I have no car to go home from DayJob at lunch, so I have a hard copy of my ms, a book of sticky-notes, and an hour. Guess what I'm going to do?

Susan said...

Julia, that is so true! I found out the hard way early on in my career that the wrong editing can ruin a manuscript! LOL


Susan said...

That was a great workshop! Lots of fun.

And shouldn't we always thank God for sticky notes! What did we ever do without them!