#WW: When Editing Isn’t Necessary
The title is – obviously – a little misleading. Editing is always necessary. As a full-time writer and an editor, I can promise this from both ends, but – as the title also promises – there is a specific time period during the writing process where I don’t suggest editing. If I had to be more accurate, I suggest not worrying about editing.
This time period generally covers the very first draft, especially if this is the first novel a writer is attempting. Why do I suggest avoiding editing at this stage? There are a number of reasons I tell writers to calm down and just write, but it mainly consists of the fact that editing can become extremely overwhelming. It demands a lot of focus and time – and it’s normally a whole lot less fun for a writer than writing – so I always suggest getting that first draft down before worrying about pesky commas and subject-verb agreement. For now, concentrate on world building, symbolism, and overall character development. Get some eyes on your work. Try to connect with a couple beta readers. Join a writer’s group, and listen to suggestions. If you get stuck, ask for more help, but getting that first draft down is all that matters in the beginning. Once that is down, edit for yourself, but always – always – hire an outside editor (preferably – and by “preferably” I generally mean “always” – an editor who is not related to you). I would even go so far as to suggest hiring an editor that is not in your writer’s group, not one of your beta readers, and not associated with your first draft. Why? Because I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I’ve had so-and-so and this-many-people-read-it. They didn’t see any mistakes, so I think it’s fine.” But when I open the file, it’s easy to see how much help they truly need.
I want to take this heartfelt moment to clarify how I went through this myself. As a novelist, I made all the mistakes any writer could make. In fact, if you read my recent post, The Reader’s Reaction, then you probably guessed the editing in the original November Snow was quite disastrous…and it was. Granted, the Indie market was much different back in 2007, and I was a child, but I will never forget that lesson. There are no excuses for disastrous editing. So, I am no exception to any of these mistakes. I had friends read it and tell me it was fine. I even had adults read it and tell me it was fine. It wasn’t fine. They were sparing my feelings, but in the end, the disaster had to happen, and it happened very publically because people wanted to protect my feelings, and honestly, someone else protecting your feelings is the easy part to overcome. The harder part is overcoming ourselves.
As writers, we have to stop protecting our own feelings. We have to be able to step back from our work, constantly and openly. We have to be okay when we work with an editor and see red marks all over the Review format in Word. We have to be able to breathe when we receive a bad review or even a review that is factually incorrect. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves when we even know we made a mistake, our editor made a mistake, and now, it’s out there. Mistakes will always slip through, and we have to find a way to accept our human self as the same self that wrote a novel. The author self is not separate, and our emotions won’t be either, but knowing when to worry, when to laugh, when to celebrate, when to write, and when to edit is unique for every author, and it is also important for every author to know about themselves.
Everyone will write differently. Everyone will edit differently. My advice isn’t set in stone or carved into a cave or propped up anywhere aside from on this little computer screen. It’s just my advice. It works for me, it worked for me, and it continues to work for me, but it took me years to figure out what “writer me” needed and wanted to move forward in the most productive way possible, and I still learn every day. I only think sharing what we learn with others is what can help us all in the end.
Who knows? Maybe what I do will work for you or maybe something you do will work for me. It never hurts to try something new, and I’m always open to suggestions. That’s the writer and the editor in me. I listen. I learn. I continue moving forward, and I share my lessons along the way.
I also want to give a HUGE shoutout to Jonas Lee, author of A Time to Reap, for writing this wonderful review of my Services: “I had been following Shannon since I started blogging/looking into Indie publishing. When I saw she offered services, I jumped on the chance to work with her expertise and connections to pump up some reviews for my first book. Shannon was professional, communicated quickly and was so great to work with. The reviews keep rolling in and my fan base is slowly growing once again. I was looking forward to an easy, effective experience and Shannon exceeded my own goals. What I didn’t expect to find was a fantastic colleague and a new friend. Even though the last part was free, it was the most rewarding.”
I am very grateful for the authors and writers I work with every day. Their work is both inspiring and exciting, and I, too, feel like I am gaining more friends to laugh, write, and speak with.