Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Refining Your Manuscript & "Refinding" It's Magic

Writers appear to have a fairly relaxing life. We sit at our desk (or comfy couch) and make up stories while sipping on coffee. There's a thrill that approaches - a thrill that most other jobs lack.

You're in love with writing. And you realize that this is the job you want to do until the day you die.

Until you've reached the editing process.

Now it's starting to seem like work. The magic of your story fades away as you chop off some of your favorite scenes. Your hopes of how great the story was when you were writing grow dim as you focus on the flaws of your manuscript and receive criticism from others.

Writing is something that I love to do: Getting to know my characters, allowing God to speak through me as I type a story that will hopefully touch the hearts of others. It's exhilarating... until it's time for the editing process. Until I read back over my story and find the many mistakes that causes the doubts to begin to creep in. It makes sense that this would happen, considering that editing involves focusing on your manuscript flaws - and possibly the flaws in your own talent as you pick apart the amazing work of art that you used to be in love with.

So how can writers "refind" the magic our story brings while refining it's impurities?
  • Keep it simple
. Create a process to go by. I started out by writing down different layers in which to edit my manuscript. Layer one involved scanning and focusing on the big picture. Each layer after the first involved focusing on more and more details. Of course, there are many ways to self-edit and this is probably not the preferred way to go - but it's the way that worked best to me. Try to create an organized plan that works for you from the onset of the editing process and stick to it.
  • Keep a binder/folder that includes the essence of your story,
  • in case you ever lose touch of it's magic through the picking apart process. In this binder, place pictures that have inspired this story, pictures that look like your characters, quotes on the art of writing, and possibly a few of your favorite scenes.
  • Listen to your story's "playlist" as you edit,
  • the music that inspired you to write this story or that could be considered as it's soundtrack.
  • Be inspired
  • by getting back in touch with your artist-self.
  • Don't just edit everything on the computer - print it out. Read it as if you were reading this story for the first time. It looks different on paper, and it is sometimes easier to edit by hand rather than on the computer screen.
  • Don't edit your manuscript to pieces. If you do this, the magic is guaranteed to disappear. Make sure to stick to your voice and allow the story to flow naturally on it's own. There is a such thing as over-editing.
  • Don't accept all of the feedback you receive from others.
  • Trust your instincts and go with your gut. There isn't anyone who knows your story and characters better than you do, so you should know which advice to accept.
  • Try not to over-analyze every detail.
  • This can become frustrating. Again, go with your gut. You've researched this industry, so you should know how this writing thing works by now.
  • Take breaks and treat yourself every so often.
  • Writing is fun, but editing is work. Which is why it can become exhausting at times. And if you over-work anything it can become a mess, so the only way to keep going is to take breaks and treat yourself as you meet your goals.
    Editing doesn't have to be such a dreadful process. Take Mary Poppins' advice and keep a positive attitude to make your work fun. This may seem silly, but it's possible - especially if your career is something that you already enjoy doing. Eventually the hard work of refining your manuscript's impurities will pay off and it will be almost as shiny as gold. =)

    "Editing might be a bloody trade. But knives aren't the exclusive property of butchers.
    Surgeons use them, too."
    ~Blake Morrison

    What are some tips you refine your writing and "refind" your story's essence?
    Is editing an exhausting or exciting process for you?
    What are some ways that you make self-editing seem like fun instead of work?


    1. I absolutely adore Elizabeth Lyon's Manuscript Makeover, because she does so much to instill a love for your characters and story as you "fix problems." She also says we often write too thin the first go-around and has wonderful suggestions for making powerful additions as we revise and edit.

      I find joy in editing when I can replace a ho-hum sentence with something more powerful.

    2. I've heard some author's editing nightmares. That would be the hardest part for me to trudge through. :O)

    3. Excellent advice! I'm not an author, but I did begin to edit a friend's manuscript once, and I quickly discovered that editing is not my forte. I can see how that would definitely be the most difficult part of writing a book.

    4. Haha! I'm starting going to start editing today, this came right in time.

    5. Laurel Garver: I do love the feeling of enhancing a sentence during the editing process to make it more powerful. That sounds like a great book, I'll have to check it out. =)

      Kate: Yeah, editing can become frustrating at times. There are helpful writing books that I've read which give tips on self-editing, such as "Self-Editing For Fiction Writers" and "Revision & Self-Editing" by James Scott Bell.

    6. Excellent advice. Just finished editing. It was, shall we say, GRUELING. There is such as a thing as over-editing. Which is easy to do if you let too many crit and beta's read your story.

      Thanks for visiting Putting Pen To Paper and following. Lovely to know you and your blog is awesome. :0)

    7. Good advice. When we say that writing is a process, we really mean it! :)

    8. @Laurel, I vote for Manuscript Makeover, too. Ditto for The Fire in Fiction.

      Tessa, I love your idea of editing in layers. It makes the job a little less overwhelming. And I also like to print it out and "read like a reader". That usually helps me feel the magic again.



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