You write for weeks, months even. Dragging words out of a brain loathe to give them up, crafting a plot and characters, finally bringing all the various threads of the story together in a satisfying resolution. Finished! your baby has been born and it is perfect. It is just as it should be and the world is surely looking to read its magnificence.
Except you have twenty instances of passive voice. And waaaay too many dialogues in the second half of the book but the first half you can't tell who's talking because there are too few. And where did that secondary character go? They dropped off the page in chapter thirteen. But weren't they crucial to the finale? Let's not even get into how cheesy that flirtation scene between the two main characters was....
Years ago, I was a technical editor. I would try to make technical information written by engineers and physicists comprehensible to the rest of us. At one lab, the tech experts were so grateful for my assistance. They were amazed at how I'd taken their random thoughts and synthesized them into a cohesive document. An another lab...The documents were fine just as they were, thank you very much. I'm not sure they ever incorporated any of my edits into the final product. Sheesh, what egos, I remember thinking.
Over the course of writing my last six novels, I fell into a rhythm a pattern that was
pretty effective. I would finish writing a manuscript, give it a read through and catch the things that hadn't made it onto the page, smooth it out a bit, then put it away. I would write the next manuscript, do the same process, and then return to the previous one. I could now read that book without the bias of a parent for a newborn baby. I could read the story, more easily see the big plot hose, the poor dialogue, and inconsistent timelines. I considered myself a ruthless editor as i rewrote. I would print up a clean copy and go through it a third and fourth time before sending it for editing.
I fell out of my pattern when I wrote my last romance manuscript. I was burned out with romance. The formula, the expected HEA (happily ever after), even the sex scenes. Besides, I had a new story idea that was clamoring to get out. It was deeply personal, took an enormous amount of research, and consumed my waking thoughts for nine months. I edited it as soon as it was done, did some beta testing, incorporated that feedback, then edited again.
As can happen in the weird timelines of authors and publishers, I had a publisher want to produce that last romance manuscript. Still in the creative buzz of the book I had just written, I shipped of the nine-months-ago romance without so much as a by-your-leave, much less a read through. I didn't even think about my process.
And then the manuscript came back with the editor's notes...
I was affronted. Angry even. I stewed in my injured ego for a couple of days and then looked closer. My anger turned to embarrassment. As I began working my way through the edits, I couldn't believe I'd sent out such a raw manuscript! I would have caught so many errors, discrepancies, and plot holes!
However, even had I given the story a rigorous self-edit, there were things I didn't know. And chapters that didn't belong but which I loved too much to give up. Things that once I learned and changed, I could use to make a better book. I will be a better writer and editor for my next manuscript, and this one will be ever so much better than it would have been!
It's so hard to distance yourself from your work. I think this is true whether you're an artist or an engineer. We take pride in what we produce and can see "criticism" of our work as criticism of ourselves.
In the end, isn't it better to have a really good final product than hold on to the idea that anything you create should remain in its original form? After all, the editor's name won't appear on the cover of the book, yours will. If the book is bad, you're the one who will bear the brunt of the criticism and if it's great will reap the rewards.
Yes, it stings, but let that E-go!
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Great, all I need is one more reason to procrastinate! As if Instagram wasn't enough...