What I’ve learned from editing

As many of you know, for the past few weeks, I’ve been living in Edit Heaven: eating, breathing, sleeping my manuscript. “Abby Road” is really shaping up thanks to the wise (and, I’m sorry, freaking brilliant) notes from my editor at Entangled Publishing.

Maybe I’ve been viewing this whole process through proverbial rose colored glasses, but. . .seriously, I’m having such fun! Writing is the love of my life, and I’ve felt (practically) nothing but joy as I’m understanding my darling, precious characters more and more, and while seeing them through different lights and angles.

That isn’t to say, however, that there haven’t been some hard lessons and some tough love. My editor is kind but she also tells it like it is. Which I’m so very grateful for.

Here are some things I’ve learned:

Be true to my characters. When I’ve made a point of writing particular personality traits, it’s unfair to create a scene with them behaving in a different way. Real people aren’t like that. And since I’m writing about “real” people, I am obligated to stick to that rule. Real people do real things.

Be clear not cutesy. Editor thought one of my characters was Jamaican because of the dialogue. He’s not. So, apparently writing accents is not my current forte. Another lesson learned.

Sometimes readers get bored. Really? Come on now. But this is the greatest story in the world! Otherwise, why did you buy it? Yes, yes. But sometimes even the most interesting stories can get bogged down. . .either by too much description or too much dialogue. Mix it up. Keep in interesting. Make your lovely readers keep guessing.

Leading readers down a path only to slam into a dead-end isn’t cool. (see Breaking Dawn. Really? Bella is trying to get fake ID’s? Then what? I’m still ticked about that!) One of my very minor subplots came to a climax, and I originally decided to have it end in nothing–almost as if it was the reader’s fault that they cared about it. (Which I’m sure would make plenty of readers angry had they been watching that storyline develop.) This was pointed out to me. And with a few adjustments, that subplot worked itself out in a much more satisfying way. Again: Be true to characters.

Sometimes humor unintentionally comes across as sarcastic or even mean. Yeah. I have this problem in real life too. There are no emoticons in manuscript writing, so there’s no way to add a ” 😉 ” after saying something snarky while trying to be funny.

Build tension and don’t give everything away in the first three chapters. Well, duh. But honestly, it’s not as easy as it sounds. For me, at least. Perhaps because I know my story so well and have been living in it for so long, I figured that no one would “get” the secret and I could plant a million clues and expect my audience to be as dumb as I am. You’re not. And thanks for that.

Throwing in a sudden revelation in the last act doesn’t work. Maybe I thought this was kind of a fancy sneak attack, but when there are very few (if any!) clues along the way, having a main character, say, admit they have some disease in the last chapter–which is why they’ve been acting so crazy the whole time–is sloppy and unfair.

Not every smart character should sound British. Yes, I had an issue with this. But I don’t anymore.

Sometimes smexy is besty. Going back to being true to my characters. I had to make a pretty important decision about them fairly late on in my editing. I’ll admit, I wrestled with it for a while. But what it comes down to is: This is something these characters would do. Keep it classy and keep it sweet. And the smexy will be there. I find this to be true. Just wait. . . .you’ll see.

I love my story and I’m so excited for the changes I’ve made; they’ve done nothing but strengthen in ways I never imagined. I do wonder, however, if I’ll be as enthusiastic after our third round of edits. I sure hope so!

5 thoughts on “What I’ve learned from editing

  1. Liz says:

    Ah! Someone tweeted this, so I had to come look and now I've printed it off to carry home as I'm busy editing my ms at the moment. Good advice, put in a charming way! Thanks so much!

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