QueryTracker: Great Novels Aren't Written - They're Re-Written

There's an interesting article posted on QueryTracker's blog today - and it's all about how great stories aren't written...they're re-written. 

A large portion of the article focuses on the ability to edit and what it takes to put it all out on the table. Considering I'm in the edit process right now for not just one, but two of my MS's, I found the information in this blog to be invaluable.

I'm lucky to have some amazing beta readers and I'm also fortunate that I love, love, love the editing process (sick and twisted? I know!). However, as the article points out, sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

I find this particularly important, especially when reading and writing is so subjective. I'm dealing with this right now, with some of the feedback from my beta readers - what one found to be a great way to say something, someone else completely disagreed. Where one thought a different path would make the writing stronger, another picked a completely different path.

So who wins?

In the end, me.

Only I know every intimate detail of my writing. Every nuance, character flaw, and history of each character. But all of that aside, it's important to take every piece of advice, criticism, and LOL moment my beta readers give me, to heart. Because without them, my writing would suffer. My writing would only have one opinion. And my writing would never get any better.

That doesn't mean you have to make every single change thrown your way - if you did this, your manuscript would never be finished...and ultimately, in the end, you'd be worse off than when you started.

So with that, I leave you with the great blog posted by Danyelle on the QueryTracker site and ask, how does everyone feel about the editing process? What great pieces of advice do you choose to live by, when scraping away at your manuscript? I'd love to hear!

Great novels don't happen by accident. They're a culmination of great ideas, great story, great writing, patience, and the ability to rewrite fantastically.

It's a deliberate process.

As I learn more and more about writing, I've found that I begin editing before I've even typed a single word into the computer.

The first thing a person has to do to rewrite well is to start with the right attitude. Everything (I'm not talking about sacrificing your values here) has to be on the table. Every word, every character has to be something you're willing to consider changing if doing so means making the story stronger and better. It's kind of like that song, Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better.) Only sung to yourself. If you have a talent for great description, you can still seek to find the perfect description. Not only will this tighten your writing, but it'll bump it up a notch.

Having an everything is optional attitude from the beginning is freeing. It allows me to draft with less fuss, because I'm not so worried about making everything perfect the first time. And it helps with the revisions as I work to separate the silver from the dross and make the golden bits sparkle even more.

Which leads me to the second thing good revisers need: the ability to trust their gut. It's important to keep an open mind, because as writers, we can be very blind when it comes to our own WIPs. Good critique partners (betas, etc.) are invaluable, but they aren't always right. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut--making sure it's your gut and not simply a resistance to change.

Then come the edits themselves.

There's the addition edit, wherein you look to see what you need to add to the story to make it complete. For me, it's always description. Visually speaking, I tend to be blind, so I have to go through and find places where good description and setting emerge organically from what I've already written.

Then there's the deletion edit, wherein you look to see what you need to cut from the story to make it complete. This is also the place where you might need to merge two scenes or maybe even some characters. I write very spare for the most part, so my deletion edit is usually more of a boy-that-was-awkward-phrasing or I-need-to-change-the-scene-a-little-farewell-words.

Then there's the weakness edit, wherein you go through and hunt down every single weakness you can find and kill it. Mine tend to by an over abundance of similes and metaphors (it's how I think), over explaining, too many -ing phrases, really long sentences.

Then there's the strength edit, wherein you go through and look at what you do well and do it even better. Have a great hook at the opening of the chapter? Great! Now add two more: one in the middle of the page, and one at the end. This is the edit, I don't think a lot of people talk about. Editing isn't just about fixing mistakes, it's also about making the prose and the story stronger, better.*

Then there's the line edit, going through and polishing away every grammatical error, every typo, making sure it all flows smoothly. Paired with this would be the syllabic edit. Reading it out loud and making sure every single syllable or word is needed. This can also make you aware of trouble spots that might have flowed well mentally, but twist your tongue in knots when spoken aloud.

And there are probably a bajillion other edits I haven't mentioned. But these are the edits I do. Now, as I'm becoming a more experienced word wrangler, I can combine some of these edits. Sometimes. It really depends on the story and how much work it needs to be stronger.

Good rewriters need a lot of patience. They also need the willingness to work hard--even when it's not fun, doesn't seem worth it, and who's going to read this anyway? And the final thing they need is confidence.

Honest confidence does not breed arrogance.

It is the acknowledgement that you did the very best you were capable of. There's no need for false modesty, fishing for compliments, or looking down your nose at someone else's work, because yours is quite obviously superior. Those are all symptoms of having a lack of confidence. Honest confidence is being able to know you gave it your best, and to be happy with that no matter how others might experience your story.

Those are some of the tools in my Toolbox of Rewriting Awesomeness, what tools do you keep in yours?

*I learned about this type of editing from Dave Farland/David Wolverton.

Danyelle writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog.