Sunday, April 21, 2013

When Editing Gets Scary

I am both ecstatic and petrified that my editor has sent back her work on my first manuscript.  I'm ecstatic because I'm one step closer to being published.  But I'm petrified because I fear the idea of  taking a scalpel to my baby.

In the most recent edition of Writer's Digest, I read about the dangers of self-editing.  I am (at least in part) avoiding that by listening to the advice of a professional editor, but, simply put, I couldn't afford to pay her to do a full edit on the whole book, so, with her help, I'm editing a large portion of the book myself.  I fear I won't be as ruthless (in a good way) with my words as she was willing to be because I'm too attached to them. I'm already struggling with accepting the suggestions she has made in the section she did edit.  Her main objective, at the suggestion of an agent, was to work on pacing, so she showed me places where the narrative dragged.  The book is, in large part, action driven, so she showed me where the narrative stood still.  I understand her thinking.  On an intellectual level I can even accept her thinking.  She's the pro.  She knows the difference between a book that's publishable and one that isn't.

But this is MY book.  It's different.  Those dead spots that don't move the action along are essential to giving a nuanced, full picture of my main characters.  She just doesn't understand.  I have to spend three pages on breakfast.  Harry's a foodie.  It takes three pages to portray that, despite the fact that the following action scene is not even two.  I know what's best for my book, right?

Nope.  I bet you saw that coming.  Maybe I need to work on my plot twists a bit more.  If I'm going to write for publication and not just my personal satisfaction, I have to come to grips with the fact that there are certain indulgences I simply can't take.  Readers of my genre want action.  Yes, good characters are important, and good dialogue is of the essence, but nobody paid good money to get into a Sylvester Stallone movie in the hopes of watching Sly wax poetic for an hour and a half.  No, they want someone they can quickly identify with and understand on some level, but mostly they want bombs, guns, and the bad guy gets in the end.

And besides, if I'm going to succeed in building a series around these characters, I can't give the audience everything in the first book.  I need to keep some secrets and let the audience come to know and love Harry and Dee Shalan the way I have come to over the years.

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