Editing a full book has always seemed like one of those fairytale-esque ‘someday’ things.
I think it is relatively common knowledge that once someone writes a manuscript, the next thing to think about is editing. Well… that world of editing is a complicated one. I am sure that you have some experience if you have ever had to edit a paper or a short story; but the truth is that novels are different. At least, that is the case in my minimal experience.
Before finishing Subliminal, I had dabbled with editing my other manuscripts. But I have never been able to got past the first few chapters.
Now that I am seriously attempting to edit Subliminal, I have run onto something that I have heard at least a few people talk about:
The phases of editing.
Rather, the things that end up going through your head after finishing a book and reading through it again. It seems to go something like this:
“This is a mess.”
“What was I thinking?”
“Actually, this is not as bad as I thought it was.”
“I wonder if anyone would actually like reading this.”
“You know, I think this might have a lot of potential.”
“Who knew I could actually be funny!”
“This is not bad.”
“What the hell was I thinking?”
“This is horrible.”
“How could this ever become publishable?”
And on and on…
Essentially, it is a circle.
The most important thing to have is hope.
But… that circle is part of the reason why I have not done much editing in the past two weeks. All right, I have been extremely distracted by everything else that has been going on; and everything else that needs to be done. But it is always possible to make time to edit, even if it is only for a few pages.
One of the dangers of the editing circle is the amount of head-space it takes.
So… here is one piece of advice before moving onto the next part of this post:
One of the easy things to say in response to the editing circle is “just get through it”, but “get through it” is something that is rarely helpful unless you are telling yourself. I think of editing as a mind game. That does not mean that it is easy, quite the contrary.
Editing requires a very different type of focus than writing does.
Which is way I think it is important to have another project going on at the same time. Fortunately, I am not only one in the house who is trying to edit; my mom is also working on her own book. This has brought up some interesting conversations, as well as a few conclusions (and always more questions). One of those conclusions is that editing is a process that requires breaks.
You know those times when you type a word, and every moment that you stare at it makes the spelling seem more and more incorrect? Unless you are in a very small group of people, editing without breaks can actually do more harm than good.
Good stories have a flow that pulls the reader in and floats them down the stream. Great stories are things that the reader can live inside of; and I think that beautiful stories are always the goal.
The best stories need good writing.
I think good writing is defined by the reader. Everyone will argue for their opinion and say that they are right; in the end, no one can entirely agree.
Of course, there are a few basic things:
- Proper grammar.
- Correct spelling.
- Paragraph breaks.
In the end, the truth is that you can never please everybody. You can try, but the word perfect simply does not exist.
I think this is true with life as well as editing. As Leo Tolstoy Said, “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
So… when is a book ready to be published?
Because I am still trying to figure out the answer, if there is one, I can only speculate.
I would like to think that I will know when Subliminal is ready to be published. And I assume that I will, but I think it could be boiled down to a few things (in our special cauldron of course):
- Other people will be able to read the entire book and understand what is being said.
- I will have a fair amount of comfort with the story; but not too much.
- There will be as few errors and typos as possible.
- There will be an acknowledgment of imperfections.
- The story will fit the characters.
In many ways, a book is much like a life. The lives that are lived, truly lived, become good stories.
A book may have perfect writing, or a perfect plot twist. But, if you truly think about it, anything that is perfect is impossible. So… edit until you and your compatriots agree that your book is ready, but do not try to erase every single imperfection because you will never be finished.
All right, that is speculation. I intend on posting a more in-depth exploration of editing and what makes a good book over the next few weeks.
If you have any thoughts of your own, please leave a comment. I would greatly enjoy reading them!