Editing Blues

Last year (that sounds so long ago, doesn’t it?), I submitted my first novel, Devil’s Blood, to Critters (an online writer critique group). I got two readers.

That sounds dismal, I know, and it probably is, but I got back two great critiques by J.M. Odell and Ashleigh Richie (thank you, two, again!). And to top it off, a good friend of mine, Learco Finck, also managed to fit my novel into his busy schedule. So, I got three awesome critiques.

Swiped from the internet (Google helped)

I pretty much applied all their suggestions. At least, the ones that pointed out my obvious errors (‘widen’ instead of ‘widened’, ‘this’ instead of ‘his’, ‘belongs’ instead of ‘belongings’, and countless others). But, of course, as good critiquers, they didn’t just point out the simple typos and grammatically errors, they also pointed out bad writing habits, some plot holes (or, at least, sags), problems with character development, and story structure trouble.

Those are a lot harder to fix. I had to add an entire section and chapter to explain stuff (I’m now at 80,000 words – it was supposed to be a novella!). I re-wrote other parts to clarify events, and tried to add more “umph” to the climax. Not sure I succeeded, but I did try. Though a new reader might not see it, I think the manuscript is better. I hope.

I know it is better than the very first draft of this beast that four other wonderful writers critiqued a year ago. Joe Bailey, Dan Bieger, Todd Newton, and Stephen ‘B5’ Jones all had a hand in shaping the primordial mud that birthed Devil’s Blood. A thousand humble bows to you all.

So…now what? Is it ready to submit to an agent or, egad, self-publish?

Not by a long shot. It is time for me to really nitpick the hell out of the text. I have a checklist of writing gaffes that I can use the search function in Word to find and then fix. I’ve started on that list, but the deeper I get into the story, the more I realize I need serious help. Man, do I suck.

But, that’s besides the point. I wanted to share my checklist with you (developed with my own poor writing habits in mind, but you might find it useful):

Things I can search for:

  • passive sentences (search for ‘to be’, ‘was’, ‘is’, ‘were’)
  • excessive or lazy adverbs (search for ‘*ly’)
  • vary sentence structure (search for ‘as’ dependent clauses)

General things I need to work on:

  • action then reaction
  • organize paragraphs (main idea, elaborate, conclude – sounds basic, I know, but I need reminding)
  • one sentence per idea
  • set the scene
  • remember to interjected the BIG idea, the central theme of the book: vanity, mystery of Lorena’s origins, and main character’s flaw

I’m shooting to have my checklist complete by next weekend, along with a synopsis of the book.

Why, you might ask?

Because I’ve managed to find an editor willing to work with me. I promised her (and myself) that I would have a synopsis, and the book, ready for her by the 15th of January, 2012.

Yes, folks, like all good writers, I’m putting it out there for more abuse. I like to think I’ve done so much work on it, gone through so many drafts, that she will simply sit back and enjoy the story. But not even my dog is buying that one (he just groaned when I wrote the previous sentence).

It is getting better. Each time I throw the beast out there, it comes back bloodied and tattered. My heart quails at the sight, but somehow it continues to breath. Like a phoenix, my story rises from the ashes and refuses die.

I suppose I do deserve Emmie Mears Friday Fellow badge. 🙂

After my editor (sounds so official!) has her way with my story, I’ll report any progress. Until later, readers, edit till you puke. 😉

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19 thoughts on “Editing Blues

    1. You lost me on that one, honey…

      Oh! No, well, yeah…never occurred to me to hire an editor to fix it for me, but rather inspire and guide me. But now that you mentioned it… 😉

      1. Yep, basically I was saying “you’re doing the work so you can do the work.” It DOES make sense, but it is also superfluous. Their job is to hack it apart, no matter how much or how well you prepare.

  1. You nailed it. I’m suffering the editing blues myself, too. You’re further along than I am… my manuscript has not progressed past the stage where I let my fiance read it and cringe the whole time. (I cringe, not him… at least hopefully.)

    1. Well, I probably shouldn’t have let the first four guys read that first draft. It was far too raw. For my second book (almost done), I’ll put it through far more scrutiny before I hand it over to someone to read.

      Editing is hard. Reading the critiques is hard too. But, well, if I want to get better…gotta take the punches!

      But they are not, punches, really. Fellow writers are very nice. I’ve gotten my fair share of scathing critiques (I’m stupid, or I wrote something stupid, etc.), but they only represent about 1% of critiquers. The vast majority critique other writers to help and learn. That’s what I do. And learning is what it is all about, no?

      Good luck with your own efforts, and when you’re ready for more readers, just let me know. 🙂

  2. Good for you. You are way ahead of me and you should be proud. As far as putting it out there goes, think of it this way, I work in the retail business and have to work with stores that can’t manage to get product to the shelf. You can’t sell if from the backroom I tell them.

    1. Hey Rob! Thank you. Even though there’s soot all over it, I am proud of my little book. 😮

      And you are right. I can’t “sell” (whether I actually get any monetary compensation or not) my book unless I prep it for publication. Kind of segues into my Wednesday post. Watch for it! 😀

  3. I am right there with you, though I am a bit worried that people have been too nice to me about my book. I have my second draft circulating with several people in various stages of beta-dom, and I am afraid they’re pulling punches. I would love to have someone rip my book apart and tell me what’s wrong with it so I can fix it. I can only find what I can see, and I’m biased and partial.

    Maybe my conference will help with that.

    Looks like you’ve got a great game plan for the new year! Let me know if you ever need anything or just want to bounce some ideas off of me. I make a good metaphorical wall.

    1. Well…you might just be a good writer. 😉

      If folks are enjoying it, and can’t find anything wrong with it – dance for joy! You’ve done your job.

      Believe me, if they are there, folks will see problems. Even if they don’t know how to articulate it, they’ll find ways to let you know.

      Even so, I think the conference will help. I can’t wait to hear about the pitch-a-thon. Man, that’s gonna be tough!

      Thanks for the offer – I may take you up on it.

  4. Those checklist are like precious gems to anyone that is crazy about writing. You have an amazing talent and coupled with a passionate heart, you can do anything , be anything. Wishing you the best and all life’s sweet success for 2012.

  5. I am so happy I found your blog! I am hopefully only a few months behind you. I am wrapping up the rewrite of my first draft (an offspring of nanowrimo 2010) and hope to start the revision process this spring. Thank you for the check-list – super helpful. For what it is worth, I am planning on working off of Kirt Hickman’s “Revising Fiction.” Good luck!

    1. I move fast. Already had an editor check it out, and I’ve decided to shelve the project till later (much later, maybe never). That’s not bad, just the way it is at the moment. I have bigger and better things planned! 🙂

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