The 5 Stages of Editing

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thanks to a question posed on Natalie Whipple's blog, I now have a post subject. YAY Natalie! (She's a ninja. You should fear her.)

Once your book is done to the best of your ability and you're itching to send it out to agents who will undoubtedly love it as much if not more than you do, there's a critical step you can't afford to skip. EDITING.

Yep. I used the "e" word, and I did it in public. Now I'll really blow your censor button and use the "b" word, too -- get yourself a BETA-reader.

More feared than "Ni" in a Monty Python shrubbery hunt, the mere mention of the e-word or b-word can make even the most self-assured writers quiver in fear because while we all hope that the person reading our opus will love it, those of us who aren't suffering from the delirium of Golden Word Syndrome know that there will be suggestions of things to change.

The book's finished. I want it to stay finished. I don't want to make changes which will mean it's not really finished at all. And yet, someone will find something I either missed or didn't consider.

The easy fix comes first - obliterate typos.

I don't know why I compulsively type "widow" for "window" or "Herny" for "Henry", but both are my most common mistakes. (I no longer use characters named Henry, but dang it, you just can't have a bunch of buildings with no windows. It's weird.)

After the easy fix is when the hard stuff comes in, and when most authors slip into the 5 Stages of Editing, which I have unashamedly parodied from the grief cycle.

Stage 1 - DENIAL

My book is perfect and shiny, therefore no critique could possibly hold any merit. I shall ignore them all as haters jealous that they didn't write it first. So there!

Stage 2 - ANGER

How dare you think YOU can tell me better than ME what goes in my book? You all want me to fail!!!! Audacious haters, I shall ignore you and laugh about the fact that your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries! Losers!

Stage 3 - BARGAINING

Okay, so I should at least LOOK at the suggestions because they probably took a really long time and it's not like the betas were getting paid or anything. Wow, these make much more sense than they did yesterday. What strange faerie magic is at work here?

Stage 4 - DEPRESSION

Ack! These are good suggestions. A LOT of good suggestions that I hate myself for not thinking of myself. Why did I EVER think THAT went THERE when it's so obviously better elsewhere. My book sux. Where's my shredder before I lose my mind and inflict this travesty of the written word on someone else? Delete key, you are my new favorite friend. *huggles delete key*

Stage 5 - ACCEPTANCE

Eventually I step off the ledge and realize that, unlike my Junior year English teacher's red pen scratches, these are SUGGESTIONS and not ERRORS. I don't have to change anything I don't want to change. Ultimately, it's my vision and my book, so I can pick and choose what I think fits into the story I want to tell. Not everyone will agree with every decision I make concerning the story or characters, and they may not like where I steer either, but so long as it's the right way for me to get the point across, I can live with imperfection. E-mail back-up quickly replaces delete key as my favorite friend. *huggles e-mail*

Once the hormone roller coaster that is novel writing has run its course, now I can start on the easy part... querying.

(Could someone please lend me a crowbar? I think my foot is stuck in my mouth.)

10 Chiming In:

Melissa said...

Nice break down. I like that it relates to the five stages of grief. How apt.

Nicole MacDonald said...

Yep! Don't you just love editing ;p

Cruella Collett said...

That is a great list. I read someone somewhere in the blogosphere today saying that they preferred the editing mode to the writing mode, and I thought to myself "huh, I can get that". I have never really thought much about the edit mode since I struggle to get past the procrastination mode and on to the writing mode, but perhaps that is why? I'm not a wannabe writer, I'm a wannabe editor!

When I have to bite the dust and face the fact that I hate the edit mode too, though, I'm going to come back to this post and cope with my grieditfs.

Amanda Sablan said...

Good stuff! We are all guilty of the 5 stages, in particular #1 for me. /:

AuroraLee said...

SO true. sad but so true. there's also: "*stick fingers in ears* la la la la i don't wanna know. Just take it and change it and don't tell me what you did. I'll never know!"

Jaleh D said...

Haha. I like this. However, I think I keep skipping the first three steps and go straight into depression, often before I even get around to showing it to anyone. My alpha reader is the one who keeps me from shredding like mad. Even with the suggestions she makes.

Tahereh said...

hahahah SO PAINFULLY TRUE.

oh dear.

Molly said...

When I was in college, editing was the most annoying thing. Having obtained my BA in creative writing, I can say I have horrible experience. Our college hated us creative writing majors and therefore there were no pre-reqs to get into our class (other than a pulse).

I'd get workshop tips from people who didn't know how to use quotation marks correctly, couldn't spell the simplest of words right, couldn't differentiate between "your" and "you're." Basically, one had to learn when to listen and when to tune out recommendations. It was so frustrating, and you do have that "BUT IT;S PERFECT" mentality. I like to think it takes practice, but I am still utterly and horribly cocky and think everything that comes from my hand is perfection.

Except non-fiction. It's the bane of my existence.

Love the post!

I'd really like it if you checked out my blog sometime, withmonsters.blogspot.com.

Krista V. said...

So true, Josin. And I just gave you an award on my blog...

Kristi Helvig said...

Great post and I'm honored to have become your 100th follower. :)

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