Friday, April 14, 2017

A to Z: Letting go

2017 THEME: Editing Fiction (Because that's what I'm in the middle of doing.)

What is the Blogging from A to Z challenge and where can I find more participants? Right here.

Part of editing is learning to Let go.

You've been with your novel for months, sometimes years. Characters have become your friends. You love to spend time in the world you've created. You hear their voices in your head and wandered the setting in your dreams. 

And now you have to rip into those pretty perfect words.  I hope you still have those tissues handy. 

Before you start, save a copy of your file. That's the one to edit. All your sparkly awesome words are now saved for posterity. A safety net in case you totally hate what editing is going to do to your wonderful story. 

Here's the thing though, its going to make your story better. However, knowing those words are all still there just as I originally intended to be frees up my brain to dig in and do what I know must be done. To be honest, I've never reverted back to that original file, and in some cases, I cringe to even skim through it. But it's there.

Once you've done all your passes, conquered the big plot issues, made sure your characters are properly motivated, nitpicked your sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, seen through to the ugly where you thought there was only sparkle, it's time to let go even more. It's time to send your newly chiseled masterpiece off to other eyeballs. 

The owners of those eyeballs (if they are good, honest beta readers and/or critique partners) will tell you about all the rough patches that still need fixing. Do you have to listen to every word? No. Should you take them into consideration, at least generally? Yes. After all, you shared your word baby with them for a reason.     

After this nerve-wracking process, its time for a polish pass and then the next step, a step back from your pretty words as you send them off into either a paid editor, submissions, or whatever avenue you're self publishing with. Somewhere around here, we have to let go for good and move on to the next project.

We create the first drafts of our story for ourselves. It may always be your favorite version of the story, perhaps with darling tidbits that only you will ever enjoy, but in the process of letting go, the story will be stronger and appeal to an audience wider than one.

Editing can be a major process but it creates a stronger story. Do you find it painful or do you enjoy it?


  1. I have a hard time letting go of manuscript. I always think "but wait, I could polish it a little more, it is not perfect yet!!"

    The Multicolored Diary: WTF - Weird Things in Folktales

  2. Editing is always a two sided sword... Happy A-to-Z-ing.

  3. Most of my life was spent as a perfectionist. It was hard to let go of anything that could be improved.

    I went to work for a company that had signs all over that said things like "Done is better than perfect" and "Work fast, Break things." The idea was to complete something and move on. No reason to spend extra time revisiting everything when it was good enough.

    My first two months were torture. Then, I began embracing the ideas because I got so much more done. Years later, I try to embrace those principles in almost every aspect of my life.

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador | Latitude Zero

  4. Editing is tough. Still learning to let go :)
    Need to be stronger & ruthless!

  5. You're quite right. Killing the darlings off will make your writing stronger - but sometimes we feel, Do we really WANT it to be stronger? Thanks for a good post.

  6. I've got one book (compilation of short fantasy stories for middle-grade readers) at this stage and in another two weeks, will have my mystery novella ready. It's always nerve-wracking!

    L: Las Vegas & Leesburg
    DB McNicol, author & traveler
    Theme: Oh, the places we will go!

  7. My day job is in editing, so I have an especially hard time letting go and calling a 12X critiqued, edited, proofread piece DONE. Because you could tinker for decades and always find seven other ways to say any sentence in your book.

    I find that if I put aside a largely finalized project for a week, then give it one last read through, I feel less scared about putting it out there.

  8. The nitty gritty of editing can be quite painstaking but it can be exciting to see the story grow into something closer to what you want. That can take a very long time, of course! Of course, it can be hard to "let go" of a story world that you love inhabiting, but it's fun to share too.

  9. I am finding editing to be EXTREMELY painful! I followed the advice you gave me on my podcast and reached for one of my oldest projects to edit (so that there would be more space between the story and me). Unfortunately this meant that I was also choosing one of the roughest, most poorly written drafts. The process has been unbearably slow.

    I finally, upon finishing the first few chapters, sent it off to a friend to read—which was really exciting—but unfortunately now I am realizing that the actual beginning of the story is likely to be after all those scenes—more or less where I'm at right now! Will it ever end?

    The biggest problem I find with editing when compared to writing a first draft, is that it takes me much longer to get into a productive frame of mind. Every session starts with rereading the scene leading up to where I'm at, followed by the first draft of the scene I'm editing. Then I start rewriting (the first draft is no where near salvageable by any means). Only this time, since I'm technically on the "second" draft, I'm trying to leave what I write as polished as possible, hence the grueling pace.

    Am I doing this wrong? Any advice?

    1. I sent you an email, because I'm a writer and I have many words to respond to this. :D


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