On Editing

Admit it, you love to edit, don’t you? I can see you now as you read through your printed manuscript, coffee cup in one hand, yummy croissant in the other, eyes whizzing left to right as you enter the world of magic you pulled from your storyteller’s mind. Raindrops catch your attention as they patter against the window and merge into a sheet of water that changes shape and distorts the view. You stare as in a daydream for a moment before you snap out of it, sip your coffee, and continue reading. We’re warm and comfortable behind our desks as we turn the first page. I’m right there with you reading my own manuscript.

The words slip by as your story unfolds and your characters speak. Don’t you love the feeling of pride when your dialogue sparkles? My heart skips a beat when my character, Sasi, speaks. I’ve fallen in love with her. She’s beautiful, sassy, and confident, and her personality shines throughout the story. You’ve fallen in love with a character, too, haven’t you? I know you have.

As you read, you hope you find no major errors to highlight, nothing to interrupt the joy of reading the words you put together into a logical, cohesive story. In the back of your mind you hear Dickens, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, all voicing approval at the flow of your writing. I feel your confidence build and your heart warm with joy. I’m happy for you.

I love watching over your shoulder as you turn page after page, noting what works and what could read smoother. Once in a while, you highlight a word or a passage, or add a question mark next to something you want to review later. You make me smile when you highlight only those imperfections that leap from the page, those glaring shortcomings that you missed during the writing phase. You don’t want to slow your reading and lose your concentration, so you skip over the lesser deficiencies – punctuation, adverbs, maybe a few spelling errors. In this stage, you are looking for anything that slows the story, interrupts its cadence, causes the reader to scratch her head. There aren’t many of those. You’re smiling now.

The sun peeks from behind a cloud and warms you as the gentle rain moves on. What a beautiful day to read our manuscripts! We’ve reached the end of chapter one: twelve minutes and seventeen seconds. We work great together! You note the time at the end of the chapter and reset the timer. You strive to keep your chapters roughly the same length. Too short and you risk not making your point. Too long and the reader may have to stop in mid-crisis to powder her nose or check on the kids. Yikes! Twelve minutes is a good length. How much trouble could a three-year old get into while you read a single chapter?

Let’s stretch our legs and refresh our coffee. This isn’t so bad after all. Printing the manuscript was a great idea. Highlighting is easier, and the break from reading on the monitor is a relief to our eyeballs. Reading on paper takes us back to all those books we consumed in a lifetime. Best of all, the feel of the paper, the smell of the book, and the solid form of the binding makes us both hunger to hold our published books in our hands. Let’s start the timer again and continue – after we brush away the croissant crumbs 🙂

That’s it! The End. Your eyes filled with tears the first time you wrote those two significant words and the feeling remains. You did it. I love your final draft; you worked so hard on it. I couldn’t be more proud if it were my own. You polished your story with skill and attention to detail, using all the lessons and tips you gleaned from writing sites and blogs, writing groups and the hundreds of books you devoured from the time you learned to read. Your story is wonderful and will hold the reader’s attention. I can’t wait to see it on display at the front of the bookstore. Your inner editor says “Great job!”

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