Thursday, August 14, 2014

pluses and minuses of writing


Many times I have written how much I love to write. I've read writers who declare that their writing is sweating blood. It's not for me. Writing, for me, is the rose; but one must never forget that roses have thorns. 

If you want your work to go beyond you, to be seen by more than you, there is a thorn waiting-- marketing, which is more than just getting your work seen by someone whether through a query letter or an eBook. There is also getting your story into shape for someone else to see it. You don't have to do any of that, if you are keeping all your work to yourself. Preparing it for publishing is marketing and editing.

Editing, while still writing, is not fun for me. I am not a detail person. I am not anal about almost anything. So to edit a book which requires attention to details, even when it's a book I love (and I love all of mine), to read it word for word, thought for thought looking for mistakes, details, misused words, etc., that is hard work and emotionally stressful. 

For me, the hardest part of editing is not the first edit or even the fifth. It happens on what I hope to be the last-- preparatory to the book coming out or taking it another step and making it into a paperback. This edit happens when I am giving one last look to a story like (fill in the blanks) ____ _____ ____.

Why is it that no matter how many times I have edited one of mine, when I go back, I can always improve what I wrote? Will I someday get to a point that I simply cannot say it better and can go on from such a last look with a smile? Or will I always be improving as a writer which means there will be places I can say it better? Sometimes that leaves me so frustrated I could chew nails-- and I don't mean my own.

Experts say writers should all use professional editors. I am not averse to that-- except, looking at the facts, a good editor (if not a personal friend) for a full sized novel will run over a thousand dollars. Yes, you can get it done cheaper, but they are not the top of the line and often aren't doing a lot more than using Word tools (which you can also use). They also can totally ruin the flow of the book if they are not also gifted writers who understand what your work is about. 

I should add beta readers are not the same. They do not need to be pros. They are reading the book as a fan of the genre or of writing in general. They can be a big help to a writer but they aren't after the detail read that an editor is. They are about the energy. They are reading it as a fan who can sometimes tell it works or does not.

Back to editing using a pro, someone like me, with seventeen books out there, would have a big financial stake in those books doing well. In fact, it'd be such a big stake that not having them sell (and great editing job or not, a story still has to meet reader expectations) could lead to serious depression. It's hard enough when there is not that kind of money into it.

How bad my last edit (which isn't likely to be a literal last edit) feels varies from book to book. Most often, it's minor tweaks, not the kind of thing that a reader (who wasn't a writer) would be bothered by (that is unfortunately not always the case). I wonder if professional editors, those who do charge a thousand dollars to do a book, if they would find going over it again also led to improvements that they missed the first time.

Repeating-- editing is not enjoyable. Much as I like my books, my characters and plots, I love more the joy and satisfaction of creating something new, finding new ideas, exploring new ground. Going over the old is work and draining work.

Plus there is this-- I want to think, when I put out a novel/novella/short story, that it is total and complete-- the best job I can do. Well, it was-- for then. But, perhaps not for someday. I don't think there is a way around this either-- except perhaps not looking at them after they have been published and giving a nice long time between rough draft and final edit.

Some of this might be like our human relationships where we look back on things we did and know we could have said something better, helped someone more, or maybe walked away sooner. It has to be one of the minuses of life but also the pluses. No matter where we are, we won't be there in a year.

Lately I've been struck with the concept that we are in a life vortex. Life is not a cycle but a spiral. When we return to the same point, say August 14th but in 2015, assuming we are still here to return, we won't be the same person. The world won't be the same. It is something we have to accept, but I have to say sometimes, where it comes to my books, it drives me nuts.

I can only hope that next year, if I look at ____ ____ ____ again, I will see nothing I can say better-- or will that mean I didn't grow? I'd like to think this time, August 2014, with these covers and this recent marathon re-editing, that everything I have out there is as good as it can be. That if I go back next year, I won't see a thing to change. I truly want to think that... 

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