From a Long Way Off

One bit of editing advice given to writers is to put some time between the time you write your story’s first draft, and when you come back to edit the manuscript.  The word on the street is that when you put a few months between these moments, you look upon your written words differently, that you see your writing with eyes that look upon the story with a lot more of a critical edge.

Now stretch that time out to about a year and you’ll be where I was last night.

I’ve spoken about editing Couples Dance a few times before, and it’s gone through one very fast revision last May before I sent it off to some publishing limbo from which it never returned.  I’ve usually thought it was an interesting, nicely paced, horrifically sexy tale, at least when I wasn’t being creeped out by what I’d written.  While it’s not some magnum opus of erotic horror, it’s a story that’s near and dear my heart.

But last night . . . oi.

I opened up the first chapters, began reading, and everything was all, “Oh, that’s not right”; “Ah, I can say that better”; “that doesn’t make sense”.  There wasn’t anything wrote with the chapter, or what was happening in the chapter, but I saw things that didn’t set well–not at all.

There were different ways to get a point across, or to describe what was happening.  There were words that simply didn’t belong and needed to go.  There were a few places where I’d tried going off in one direction and things sorta stopped.  It wasn’t a total mess, but it wasn’t clean.

I’ve seen people say, “Oh, I suck at editing, I’ll get someone else to do it.”  You don’t want to do that.  See, you can send your manuscript off to have someone find and point out wrong punctuation and misspelled  words, but the one huge advantage you have when editing your own work is seeing where you can make improvements.  Not just cutting out huge chunks of story because you’ve meandered into a sub-plot involving robot cats with lasers taking over your living room, but getting things tight and right.

I used to hate editing.  There was a time when I’d rip off a story and think, “Yeah, that’s good.  My first drafts rock!”, but these days I know better.  I’ll go over a story three, four times, pass it around to someone, and still freak when I discover some crazy typo that skipped past all those readings.  It’s enough to drive you to abuse chemicals if you’re of such a mind.

One chapter edited, a few more to go.  Actually a lot more to go.  The story is fifty-three thousand words, and I edited thirteen hundred last night.  Hey, a little over fifty-one thousand, seven hundred words to go!  And there’s a good chance I’ll give the story another look before I find some people to look at it and tell me where things are wrong.

I’ve got a month to six weeks to get it good.  No rush, yeah?