Monday, February 25, 2013

It's dark in the editing cave

Authors talk about "editing caves" as if they are real places. My editing cave is the same physical location as my "writing cave," and yet it feels different - darker, gloomier.

A quick glance around assures me that the lights are working and my monitor is at full brightness, so why the different feel? Especially when editing is one of my strengths?

Frame of mind.

Here's my simplistic explanation. To pound out a first draft is equivalent to construction. You started with an idea and built on it, letting the imagination and/or an outline guide you. Each step of creation involves adding something that wasn't there before.

Those results are tangible and immediately transparent. A writer can step back and look at word count and see progress.

However, editing is akin to rennovating a building. Anyone ever lived through an office or home fix-up? Dust is everywhere. The noise drives you crazy. Everything is out of place and disrupted.

Those same challenges occur during editing. Sometimes it's the foundation of the story that needs work. Sometimes there's only a cosmetic facelift needed. In any event, the changeup can be disorienting.

Especially once you consider that authors are taking apart their own work. No wonder we grumble about editing! In the midst of the fix, precious words are cut, sometimes entire scenes find their way into the recycle bin. We get pulled into the microscopic level of craft, all the while trying not to disrupt the artistic flow of words that give the story fluidity.

In the editing cave, it always gets worse before it gets better. The virtual dust and noise discourage us. Many writers harbor self doubts, and it's easy to assume the story is crap at this point. Conversely, the temptation looms to hurry up and finish, to get the story launched right away, but the simple truth is, a well-edited story is a more satisfying read.

Respect your process.

Though bookselling is competitive, I submit that we are competing against ourselves. Writing the best book possible each time hones writing craft and builds a reader base.

Sure it may be dark in the editing cave, but wouldn't you rather find the mistakes and shore up the flaws before bright lights shine on the book? I know I would.

And hopefully, I'll emerge from my editing cave in March. Rough Waters will be worth the wait!

Maggie Toussaint
HOT WATERS - coming soon

ps you may have noticed a few differences here at Mudpies. I selected a different background to reflect my love of the ocean, a minor "edit" to be sure, but its a happy color for me. And, thanks to Jeannie Reeves, I have an updated image and I couldn't be happier with it. Thanks for your hard work, Jeannie!

35 comments:

  1. Your comments are spot on, Maggie.

    I just finished reading through a galley and found that while looking for things that might be wrong (typos, misspellings, things like that) I was so focused on finding what was wrong that it all felt wrong.

    Oh, and I love the blue! Very calming.

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    1. Hi Mary,

      I can get so down on myself as I find mistakes during editing, but in truth, I want to get out the entire first draft before I clean up anything, so my second drafts are often extremely rough. Back in the days before publication, I had the luxury of honing a paragraph for a day or a week or however long it took. Now there's an expectation for a stream of books, so I've had to develop my own editing process. And even then I miss stuff. I'm so happy to have a great critique partner and wonderful editors.

      Thanks for the comment about the blue background, and thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  2. Love this, Maggie. Great analogies and wonderful explanation. I'm editing right now, and you nailed the feeling. I take a lot of time in my first draft, so it feels like I am taking a wrecking ball to something already working, and yet I know it has to be done! Can't wait to read Hot Waters.

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    1. Hi Donnell,

      One would think editing would get easier, but as I become proficient in one thing, I learn about something else that could be better, tighter, smoother. Editing can't be rushed!

      Looking forward to seeing you at Left Coast Crime.

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  3. Yes, great comparison, Maggie! I've just crawled from the editing cave and made first steps into the writing cave. What a difference. I'm still blinking at the brightness and it might take a few more days before I feel fully comfortable bathing in the delight of writing a new novel.

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    1. Hi Edith,

      First let me say congratulations on your new release! I know you must be very excited about that.

      I'm always amazed at how solitary this process is and yet how universal the despair/euphoria of editing vs. writing is amongst authors.

      Appreciate the visit and the comment!

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  4. Maggie--which photo is this one? What number? Is it your original one? It looks great! I so need to have a new photo....maybe soon.
    Editing feels like a cave because your vision becomes narrowed and more focused. When I edit, I tense up, I don't take my eyes off the screen, and I barely move--it's almost like being tied up.
    When writing--creating--I feel freer and move around more. I look away from the screen more because I want to imagine something in my head.
    I still use those Self-Editing steps Rhonda from TWRP gave us many years ago. One step that is valuable is to highlight "felt, saw, thought,". words that might indicate telling instead of showing. There are some good steps in that list.
    Good luck with your editing. We have never renovated anything while living in a house, other than get new carpet...even that is disrupting. I hate it.
    I enjoyed your post.

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    1. Celia,

      This photo is the #11 one I liked, but I had her crop it a bit. Maybe I subconsciously chose pink because your photo is with a pink top? Who knows? It works for both of us.

      And good points about body position differences between editing and writing. I am forever looking out the window when I'm writing because it frees me.

      Finding those trouble words is a great tip for folks in edit mode.

      I don't like disruptions. Maybe that's why it takes a lot of willpower to sit at the computer and get the edits done.

      Thanks for the visit and the comment!

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  5. I enjoyed your posy Maggie. The one thing I do first is read the whole book out loud. I surprise myself because my reading voice sees things my silent self misses. Go figure. Best Luck.

    Rose

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    1. I often think I will read my books aloud, but I don't. I tried having my kindle read it aloud to me, but the robotic voice kept distracting me. I have found that trouble spots within a scene improve upon a read-aloud; I should do a bit more of that right now to break the monotony of searching and destroying nuisance and telling words.

      Thanks for stopping by, Rose.

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  6. lol had I read that out loud, post wouldn't have come out like posy. See? :P

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    1. Too funny. I can't say how many times I've wanted to hit the recall button on a blog comment I've posted. There's always something I missed as I'm flying through cyberspace.

      I wonder why blogger doesn't allow edits? Once you hit that send button, it's permanent. Oh well, as long as we keep a sense of humor about it, we'll be fine.

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  7. Perfect analogy Maggie. Thanks for thinking this through for the rest of us!

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    1. Thanks, Claire. So good to have you visit.

      Please come again.

      Delete
  8. Oh, the editing cave. I've been in one for so long, I'm almost at the point of hating the book. It's a book I wrote over a decade ago. Common wisdom says to put those early books in a drawer and forget them, but I couldn't. I liked the story. However, it might have been easier to write the whole book over from scratch, but I couldn't do that either. I'll be very happy to get out of the cave and move on.

    Very timely post, Maggie.

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    1. I feel your pain, Polly. I have at least 2 books stashed that will stay stashed. I've completely rewritten 3 older books in recent years and swore I'd never do that again. For me, the stories lost their freshness and I no longer loved the characters. I need that spark of interest to carry me through the writing and the editing.

      Here's to us emerging from the editing cave soon!

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  9. Wise words indeed and I love the analogy, hard graft rather than tinkering. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Maddy,

      Good things come from good effort. Getting all that effort out is another story, LOL. I recently had a woman ask me about editing. She said, "Is grammar what you check first on an edit?" I explained that grammar was the last thing I checked. I look at plot, character arc, POV, then a host of 5 craft elements together, then I finally get to grammar and word selection edits. She seemed stunned. Maybe she's one of those people who has a great first draft. We were certainly worlds apart in our mindsets.

      Thanks for the visit. And I love your fish pic icon. Cool.

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  10. I can relate. When we moved into this house about 3 years ago, my writing was very much like the construction work we had done. When I write, I edit as I go, so that final pass isn't quite as daunting, but it's never easy. One little change in chapter 2 can create major problems in chapter 22 if you're not careful.

    Terry
    Terry's Place

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    1. Hey Terry,

      Yeah, those ripples early in the book can totally muck with your resolution. My goal is to tie up all loose threads, but in a complex whodunit, when you're trying to make everyone seem guilty, you have to figure out when to make people not guilty. In the book I"m working on now, my critique partner asked, what happened to Avery? I knew, and I thought I'd written it, but it wasn't as clear to the reader as it was to me. Which means an edit to clarify. Can you tell I've been editing for days?

      Always nice to see you.

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  11. Hi Maggie, I love the blue background, much softer on the eyes.

    Yes, I have been through renovations. They lasted eight months and drove us insane. My editing goes much smoother than house-renovation. I don't mind editing. Really, I can do it forever. It's the first writing that hurt, maybe because everytime I sit to write I start by reading the previous chapter and editing it to dig myself deep in the scene.

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    1. Glad to know your system works for you. The most exciting way for me to write is through discovery to a plot point. It's also the most scary and raw writing I ever do. Hence the ragged first draft. Maybe one day I'll get better at getting that first bit down and it won't be such a big deal to edit the sheen into the story.

      Enjoyed having you stop by.

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  12. Point well-taken, Maggie. Self-editing is very important. We can always improve on our work.

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    1. Hey Jacquie,

      Self-editing is the correct term, of course, but I often feel like I'm life-editing, to make sure I have energy and flow and story without stray stuff gorping it up.

      So glad to see you again!

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  13. HI Maggie,
    I call this layering. This is how I write. I get the basic story down first, then go back and layer. When I think I'm done, I'm far from it. lol. I have my crit partners go over it and read with fresh eyes. What a revelation at the transitions I forgot, or where my character lived (hmm) must have cut that out and didn't miss it. It's always one of those "I know where she lived, why didn't the reader" type of dumb errors. Bless my crit partners. Then the real editing begins. The tearing,the adding and all the not so fun stuff. lol.
    Thanks for the post. Yes, we want polished and our best work out there in public land.

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    1. Lorrie,

      You and I are on identical wavelengths about this. God bless all critique partners and beta readers. And God bless chocolate, which makes all editing more tolerable.

      Thanks for the comment. Please come again.

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  14. Great post, Maggie! I'm in the editing cave myself trying to finish up my latest historical. And I've really been dragging my feet on this one. I wrote the first draft over the summer months and intended to get back to it in the fall. But, I didn't even look at it again until after the holidays. I finally completed a minor revision and started on the edits, but I keep finding other projects I'd rather work on.

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    1. I feel your pain, Susan. Once that flash-bang of the story is gone, it takes work to stay in love with the characters - sort of like a marriage, LOL.

      When I fall out of charity with a project, I try to remember what sparked my interest in it in the first place, and I do all that I can to bring that spark back to life.

      Another commenter mentioned that sometimes when it won't come, its because our subconscious isn't ready to buckle down on that project. It knows something is missing before we do.

      Whatever happens, I wish you the best. Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. Okay, I have a suggestion..Let's not call it the editing "cave." How about editing cabin? That places us in a lovely log home with a fireplace,and overstuffed furniture. Sure, look up from the screen for a glance out the window to take in the lovely scenery of lakes, woods, blue skies and puffy clouds. Ah, I feel better already! I wonder if there's any hot chocolate around here. Great post. Now get that fire in the fireplace started so you can enjoy the fragrance and the warmth.

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    1. Hi JQ,

      What a great idea. Since the cave mentality for editing is a frame of mind, let's shift the frame to a more positive image. I like the log cabin pic. Just what I need to get going on today's edits. Thanks for the suggestion, and the hot chocolate!

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  16. I thought we were friends, but there you go setting a bad example with that spotless desk. I'm so disappointed in you.

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    1. Why do you think I made that image dark? There are stacks everywhere. I have marketing stacks, invoice stacks. Two racks of active file folders and all my newspaper stuff. I need three days in here to sort it all out, and that's not going to happen. Rest assured, I'm still the same messy office gal you've always known. Our friendship is not in jeopardy!

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  17. Reminds me I need to go back to my editing cave very soon!

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  18. I must be odd. I enjoy the editing process (not cave for me; I don't do caves!), the adding and subtracting, the perfecting. It's playing with words and thoughts. The hard part is never feeling like you get it quite to perfect!

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  19. Maggie, You nailed - you have to respect your editing process. Don't ignore it. That "rough" draft needs a self-edit. Mind you, it's up to "you" - do you enjoy editing? Find it tedious? I think if you have a positive outlook, editing can be a cave filled with a couple of candles. *grin*

    Smiles
    Steph

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