This, That and the Other Thing

New and beginning authors often (loudly) assert their ability to edit their own work.  Let me just say this is not always a good thing.

As authors, we see what is supposed to be there.  We do not see what is actually there, so we misread clumsy sentences and overlook words that are missing or are included twice in a row.  The first draft is the story as it flowed out of your mind and onto the paper (or keyboard).  Yes, there is life and energy there, but it is not yet ready to be published, no matter how many times you go over it.

Unless you have an unbiased eye upon your work, your book will not be the easy, wonderful reading experience that you want it to be.

We need that Super Hero of authors everywhere!  We need …  Line Editor!!!

As we speak, I am writing from both sides of this issue.  I am currently doing line edits and a beta read on a fantasy manuscript, and editor Carlie Cullen is doing the same for me, poor girl.  WE all need editors who read and understand the genre in which we write.

Now just because I can see 6 instances of the word ‘long’ in one paragraph of someone else’s work does not mean that I will spot it in my own!

To the author in the first flush of victory, the completed first draft of his manuscript is a thing of beauty, a flawless diamond to be cherished and adored.  It is the child of his creative muse and, as such, it is perfect in every way.

Alas, this perfect child is flawed in ways that you are unable to see, for just like the child of your body, this child of your heart appears to you exactly as you wish it were. When these flaws are pointed out, kindly and with consideration, we are one step closer to having that wonderful story emerge from the chaos that is the first draft.

Let us consider the word ‘that’.

Sigh.  We shall now examine the following sentence from ‘Forbidden Road’, which is currently being beta read and line-edited by the wonderful Carlie Cullen, who worked with Alison DeLuca on her book, The Lamplighter’s Special.

“Just go to sleep, please.” Marya was not upset over something that he had not done or not said. Now Edwin sensed that it was a mixture of anger, hurt and guilt that she was feeling.

In one paragraph my stream of thought included 3 instances of the word ‘that’ and an extraneous ‘not’.  In my own mind, when I read this before sending it off for beta-reading, it was as good as I could make it.  I didn’t see those unnecessary words, because sadly, my speaking habits are rife with ‘that’, ‘eh’ and ‘cool’.  I can spot it in YOUR work, but in my own it disappears because like a beloved but unruly child, I see my own work the way I WANT it to be and not the way it is.

This is how that paragraph read in my mind:

“Just go to sleep, please.” Marya was not upset over something he had not done or said. Now Edwin sensed it was a mixture of anger, hurt and guilt she was feeling.

Thanks to Carlie it now actually does read this way. Now that she has the care and weeding of ‘Forbidden Road’ she will gently pry the real story out of the debris that lurks in every first draft.

Just as Carlie does this bit of magic for me, I do it for others. Each time I go through this as an author, I learn something new about myself and the way I write.  At the very least, I learn what NOT to do when the stream of consciousness takes over my story.  Better writing habits are learned over a period of time, and the only way to gain them is to write. Once you have written it, it is a real bonus to have someone you trust and admire as writer to cast a gentle but firm eye on your work.  If you can see it through their eyes, you will be able to take your story to the next level.

What is the next level, you may ask…

The third draft and edit, followed by the final edit!  After Carlie has looked my precious child over and “found all the nits in her hair”, Danielle Raver and Alison DeLuca will each read and edit the book.  Hopefully, this will help me avoid the editing problems I have struggled with in the past.

The fact is, unless you can really and truly accept criticism, your book will never be what you want it to be. You must be open to what the reader will see when they read what you wrote. You don’t need to do everything that the editor suggests, but 9 times out of 10 I make changes along the lines they suggest, because when I look at the problem area I see exactly what they meant!

If it takes a village to help a mother raise a child, I can assure you that it takes a village to help an author write a book.



Filed under Adventure, Books, Dragons, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Uncategorized, writer, writing

14 responses to “This, That and the Other Thing

  1. Patty

    What a great post Connie and oh so true! tryng to edit your own work is like going to the prom with your sister/brother. Yeah, you’re there but it’s not really a date.


  2. Great post! Lol, and in a serendipitous twist of fate, I’m actually sitting in the same room as the editor of my soon-to-be-published novel, and she is lecturing me on my extraneous use of the word “that”. I don’t know where I would be without my editing team, they find *so* many issues that I never even consider. Their criticism is, like you said, hard to take at times, but I keep telling myself that it will all be worth it in the end! Very thought-provoking post, and good luck with your current writing project 😀


  3. I am editing my first novel with Danielle’s help, and I can’t believe how many “thats” I missed….


  4. When I wrote the first draft of Heart Search, I was shocked by how many extraneous words my editor took out and if I had a dollar for every ‘that’ we got rid of, I would have had enough money for some serious retail therapy! Lol. :o)

    Thanks for all your kind words about me & my editing skills, Connie. It’s such a pleasure to be working with you and I’m honoured you asked me!


  5. Btw, I hope you won’t mind but I’ve re-posted this on my blog too!! 😮


  6. Fantastic post, Connie- and astonishingly true. I read my first MS so many times I grew hairy palms and went down three dioptres on my visual acuity. And still little typo, grammar, style points pop up like Mogwai fed after midnight.
    We all need an unbiased eye on our work- all, without exception!!


  7. Very informative, Connie. And so true–how we are blind to our words. 🙂


  8. Hi, I find this fascinating! I plan on getting a final edit to polish and enhance my new novel. Thank you for the 2 like’s! Your blog is great! Keep writing!