Tuesday, 9 November 2010


The following is a true story.

So you are a writer. You write and write and write, and revise and revise, and edit and edit, and crit crit crit. You find an agent, and depending on the state of your book when they take you on, you do it a little more. Then you go out on sub, maybe do a little more in between, and BAM!

You got yourself a book deal, mister! (mister, in this case going for both girls and boys).

Then you get the line edits and the copy edits and you die a little inside. I mean, there is a LOT. There is a LOT that goes into making a book that perhaps people don't really realize until you're staring your lovely book in a face that looks like it is bloodied out of all recognition.

SO you do them, the edits and you think, "huh, I didn't know that" or "really? That is supposed to be that way?" Or "that is how you fix the sentence? Wow" and so on. Until you're done, and you send them back to your editor and she says AWESOME JOB and WE ARE DONE and WE NOW GO TO GET SET.

It sounds like we're going steady, no?


So then you open a new doc to do the fun manuscript that has been banging around in your head for ages and ages and you find yourself SELF-EDITING as you write. No longer the halcyon days of just writing it out, no, now you KNOW how t-shirt should look, you know the best way to cut a sentence, you watch against excessive emoting, etc.

The question I ask myself is: does this make my writing experience better? Yes and no.

Yes because now I have a better handle on things. I can make sure that my draft is even cleaner than before. That I am learning to copyedit myself better on the fly.

But no because (IMO) the naive thrill of simply writing, opening yourself up and just letting the first draft out, is changed. The freedom is there, but you're a bit more tied to the ground.

I notice this. I miss the way it was. But I'm happy I am learning and changing too.

I think.


Matthew Rush said...

Thanks so much for sharing that Jen. It does sound inevitable, but I suppose I'll take it, since there is no other way to get published.

Heidi Willis said...

Jen, you are so right on this! It's as if the more you know, the less enjoyable it is.

Like playing the piano. If you have no idea, the banging on it can be fun (for a two year old). As you learn about the notes and the form, you now have to practice to play. And practicing is not nearly so fun as banging.

BUT - eventually that learning is so entrenched you don't even think about it anymore. You will write cleaner without knowing you are doing it, and then the fun begins again.

Patti said...

I never thought about how writing the next book would be affected, but that's interesting. I suppose it would be good, because you would n't do as much editing

Medeia Sharif said...

I'm seeing this with my new wip. I used to draft quickly, but now I find that I'm going back more, revising and editing while I'm drafting, which slows down the process. What I learned from my agent and editor stuck with me. It seems like a pain, but my writing is stronger now.

marsh to the fore said...

I'm sorry, Jen, but despite having learned more through this editor inflicted knowledge, shouldn't that first draft be totally free? I am thinking that the state of total freedom is the only way you can get that wonderful, creative stuff right out of the subconscious.

Just a question, you understand!