Monday, February 1, 2016

Editing Agony and Ecstasy

By Jennifer Goble

One of the many things I learned in the book publishing process is the value of editors. They are worth every penny. My editor walked me through every page, helped me clarify nebulous content, and made me look good, well, at least, improved my author image.  

My new project, Rural Women's Stories, puts me in a position of editing. Whether I interview women and write the story or they post what they write on my site, I edit before I publish. I am certainly not an editor, but the more I write, the better I get at ‘catching’ the obvious.

I now have a ton of respect for editors, and I understand their importance in quality writing. Northern Colorado Writers has several members who offer editing services: April Moore, Kathryn Mattingly, Teresa Funke, Jennifer Top, Rich Keller, and Nancy Reed. Remember them when you want your work to shine. 

I belong to a writer’s group organized by NCW member Carol Strazer. Our purpose is critiquing. Feedback from fellow authors is editing extraordinaire. One person catches grammar, another word overuse, and a question might cause me to revisit flow or sequence. Invaluable! 

Having someone, anyone, pick apart, beat up, and bleed all over a piece I’ve written isn’t exactly my idea of fun. In fact, I often need to nurture my self-esteem before handing over my article or story. But, it is how I grow as an author. 

Editing NOT necessary
Writing improves by writing, reading, and listening. I learn by writing; the more I write, the more succinctly I express thoughts on paper. I also learn from reading, and I need to budget more alone time for me and my favorite authors. Listening to constructive ideas and blatant errors contributes equally to my development. Mistakes or bad habits are painful to hear at times, but entirely beneficial.

I also learn from critiquing the work of others and offering suggestions. It reminds me of being the recipient brownies I didn’t bake; I didn’t create them, but I sure know if they’re tasty. Creativity, the mental space I write from, is replaced with logic and knowledge. Helping someone improve their skills is an enjoyable responsibility.

My advice: Embrace both sides of editing, the receiving, and the giving.  


What is YOUR editing experience?

Until the next time: Live while you live!

Columnist: South Platte Sentinel


Patricia Stoltey said...

All of my experiences with being edited and critiqued are an amazing combination of "agony and ecstasy" -- you put that so well I had to repeat it. I've learned a lot, believe me.

JC Lynne said...

I've recently had my first novel re-edited by the amazing Jennifer Top for a new edition release to make up for the editing nightmare the first time round.

Sure, I pace around for a week or two arguing with her recommendations and then I come round to 'damn, she was right.'

Agony and ecstasy is precisely the correct description.

Mary F said...

The most difficult part of the writing process is the editing part. End of story. At least for me. I am on the beginning path of becoming a published author and this part is what is keeping me from submitting work that I believe could get published.

I go back and forth between editing as I write because I am a perfectionist to saying screw it, I'm just going to write. Several questions that I need some answers, feedback on are:
1. How does a writer find the balance between the two extremes?
2. Although I think an editor is necessary to polish a piece that you want published, I want my writing to have a good quality up front for my own satisfaction. What things can I do to become a "better" writer in that respect?
Short of going back to college and getting an English degree. Any books, websites, etc that anyone has found helpful?

David Sharp said...

I hear you about learning from critiquing other peoples' work. Even though it's easy to see it as doing a service for somebody else, I wind up benefiting from it quite a bit too. And it gets my head away from my own project, which always seems to stir the creative juices when they've gone stale.

Thinking about Mary's questions:
1. My experience is that there is definitely a writing phase and an editing phase. Once the manuscript is down, it's much easier to obsess over making it great without losing heart. There may even be multiple editing phases, each with a different focus.
2. One of my favorite books on editing is Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell. It highlights a lot of common things to watch for and it uses lots of examples.

Jennifer Goble said...

Thanks all for your comments! Yes, the nasty word editing which usually means rewrites and more editing. I guess what doesn't kill us grows wisdom.
I want to look into your book suggestion David. Mary, yes, I think the balance is what keeps us going back to the keyboard. Once we have time to pout and recover, we can hit it with new gusto. Usually, for me, it is then I have a touch of creativity in my words. It probably roots in pure frustration.
Again, thank you for your comments!

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