I’m not a novice at writing. You wouldn’t always know it—well, I wouldn’t always know it—but I’ve had my share of compliments when I’ve assisted someone with something they were working on. And while I’ve been writing creatively since I was in first grade, I have always maintained that I continue to learn. The day I no longer feel I can learn anything is the day my ass needs to retire. If there is a flaw in my ability to write, it’s that I fail to see the errors in one of my own finished manuscripts. I am completely colorblind to it.

I can look at a page of text from another author, and immediately point out issues. But my own? Not. Even. Close. Editors who I’ve worked with at publishers in the past are very careful not to impose themselves on what they feel is an author’s style. They’ll mark the stuff that’s an obvious error. That’s what I believe I’ve become used to. However, then I handed over the Falling Awake novella to my friend/fellow author and mentor two years ago, it came back looking like a first essay submitted by a college freshman. There was so much wrong with it!

My neighbors can attest to hearing me shout at the top of my lungs two weeks ago that this would not be the case when I submitted the second novel in the series to my mentor/editor. I went through great pains to make sure my POV was spot on, and that so many of the problems I had in the first book would not be carried over into the second. I’d say, based on comments/corrections from her on the second book, I was 97% successful.

This isn’t to say the manuscript didn’t come back looking like it was another first composition turned in by a freshman, this time in high school. The first book was 20k words. The second was 91k. Imagine how many more issues I could have! And issues there are. Sure, I may not have made as many of the same mistakes as were present in the novella, but I discovered a whole bunch of new ones to make!

But here’s the thing. I asked her to do this. I want this. And I learn from her. She goes to great pains to be as complete as possible, and give me as many options as are available to make the story all it can be, all I want it to be. The end book is only going to be as good as I’m willing to make it. It’s only going to work if work is put into it. Editing isn’t easy. I forget about how intense editing can be because each book shines just enough when it’s done to make it all worthwhile.

She always makes sure to point out the positive, and lets me know never to be upset with anything she’s pointed out in her comments. It’s never personal. I never take it that way. If she didn’t see that I am learning, and she didn’t believe in the work I’m producing, she wouldn’t bother. I am extremely, extremely grateful to her for this. And I feel humbled when I see how much she’s learned, and how much I still have in front of me.

A great many people think being an author is easy, that it’s simple to sit down at a computer, type something up, and then publish it. It would certainly contribute to the explanation of why piracy is so rampant. The truth, though, is there’s nothing simple about it. Writing is like any other profession, and I’m proud to have a helping hand from my mentor.

I still have much to learn. But in the meantime, this new book is going to be good!

Views: 56

Comment by JMac1949 Today on March 6, 2017 at 7:08am

Writing is a never ending process of editing and rewriting.

Comment by Kage Alan on March 6, 2017 at 7:35am

Oh, it ends. lol At some point, it has to, and then we move on to the next piece.

I attended a panel discussion at a convention many years ago, and the head of a local writers group in Atlanta was telling folks how one of their members had a short story accepted in The New Yorker. Not an easy feat. He then stated the two years spent on the short story were necessary, and he'd wished she'd spent another year revising it. I about fell off my chair. 3 years on a short story? Publish it. Learn from it. Move on. At some point, it just gets ridiculous.

Comment by Boanerges on March 6, 2017 at 7:48am

Editing is hard work; so is writing. I've done both with varying degrees of success. Now I more or less confine myself to short posts and/or comments here. A novel or even a non-fiction book based on my unlamented career? Not a chance.

Write on, brother.

Comment by Rosigami on March 6, 2017 at 8:02am

Creative efforts take work, don't they? A book, a painting, a piece of music- the finished piece belies the often long and effortful process behind its birth.
Judging by some of the actually-been-published stuff I've read over the past few years, many authors could use a more considered approach, a good editor, and probably a thicker skin. 
I understand that It's a tough thing to do, to put your baby in the hands of someone who is going to see its flaws and point out ways to fix them. Even the careless - and perhaps simply ignorant- failure to self-correct typos and spelling errors speaks to the inability of many folks to accept the most benign criticism before sending it out to the publisher. Move deeper into story logic, character development, setting etc. and the author's ego is set up to take a significant pounding. 
It speaks to your commitment to your art that you have a process that works for you. I enjoyed the first book very much and look forward to the next one!


Comment by koshersalaami on March 6, 2017 at 9:10am

The two to three year thing sounds like dealing with engineers who work for manufacturers. The project is never done - there's always another idea, something else to integrate. There's something new that will be available to integrate in three months or something. There has to be a point where you pull the plug and say Make The Damned Thing Now or nothing ever gets made. 

Comment by Kage Alan on March 6, 2017 at 9:12am

Exactly, Kosher. My original mentor from college worked on a book for nearly 20 years, I think. He kept changing it, and changing it, and changing it. Finally, he'd had enough. I kept telling him "You're a professor! Turn your work in. Let it be what it is." I do miss that man.

Comment by Terry McKenna on March 6, 2017 at 10:29am

In the years since Raymond Carver's death, there have been suggestions that his style is the result of editing and not his real style. True or not, it suggests the problem with editing. Some arts are collaborative, some are not. Published writing has an editor, so is in the middle. In painting, the painters sometimes is so in love with the act of painting that he or she refuses to finish. De Kooning got that way in the late 1940s and early 50s.

Comment by Kage Alan on March 6, 2017 at 10:37am

I'm fortunate, Terry, in that my editor states if I feel a change interferes with what I consider style, not to make it. Editing was far more restrictive even 10 years ago, and some places still are.

Comment by nerd cred on March 6, 2017 at 1:46pm

Kage, when you read past works do you still find things you'd change?

My kids used to send me their writing for that kind of thing and I'd mark them up like your editor does. I'd warn them in advance, every time, that I was making suggestions for them to think about, not correcting. Unless I was correcting, then I'd make that clear. Like the one who had 17th century New England colonists growing sweet potatoes. I was pretty adamant about changing it to squash of some sort and even researching that.

This is too long a story but it's hilarious so I'm going to type it.

Once I edited and produced a neighborhood newsletter for a short time, filling in for a very sick editor, to preserve her paycheck for her. We had high standards because a smart and often sophisticated readership. Hiring editors we'd have people like a Columbia J school PhD apply - and hundreds of applicants for our little part-time job. 

One very involved community member wrote for us during this period. She had an English BA from some school in SD and thought she was The Very Last Word in writing. Arrogant as could be and very, very sensitive to any editing without being open to any kind of explanation. It wasn't that big a problem because we (I called in help for her stuff) couldn't even read the stuff she turned in. Made no damn sense. And these were supposed to be informative articles. The neighborhood was a co-op and there was some legal responsibility for the newsletter actually to communicate. How to edit what you can't even make sense of to read?

This is how: didn't edit. Printed it as she wrote it and subjected her foolishness to public exposure. Made sure the actual information, if it was necessary, appeared elsewhere. She was an artist I guess. Or something.

Comment by Kage Alan on March 6, 2017 at 1:52pm

Oh, heck yes. Every book has something I'd change now. They seemed fine at the time, but the further along in my career I go, the more I find I'd do a little different. Not enough explanation, too much explanation, stilted dialogue, poor responses, over-the-top responses... It's all there. But, even with their little faults, they're still my kids, and I love em'. =)

Sounds like you did the right thing by publishing her articles as they were turned in. If questions ever arose, you just point them in her direction.


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