Friday, July 22, 2011

Editing: The Hard Way

Sit down now, minions, and I'll tell you a tale of woe and frustration, but one that has a silver lining.

Way back in October of 2008 (two-thousand and EIGHT, y'all!) I had an idea. A shiny new idea about a girl and a boy and the adventure they shared, and the love that blossomed between them. Sure, that story has been done to death, but my take has a unique twist. When I started out, the words just poured out of me. Words that didn't always make sense, or seem to fit the tone. By the time I'd finished, and mustered the courage to show it to betas, I was worried about some of those words.

Not the ones that made up my plot, or the dialogue (though all that has since gotten a major overhaul), but the words that contributed to my STYLE.

Problem was, I didn't trust myself.

When I got back a few crits back that recommended killing some of my darlings, I lost what little confidence I'd had in my ability to turn a phrase. This was not the fault of my critters, by any means. Those darlings were begging for it anyway. But over time, the editing demons nipped away at me. I felt the need to homogenize my work, to make my mc sound more like an average teen. To reduce the writing to plots and characters and dialogue and get rid of all those darlings that abounded.

But the problem here was, they weren't all darlings. In my attempt to regulate my character voice, I'd slowly stripped away all my authorial voice. I'd undermined my own work because I felt the need to try and write like someone I'm not. I wanted to make my Evangeline as snarky as some of the other teen heroines out there, but she just ain't a snarky girl. BIG mistake. So now, my manuscript for EVANGELINE has some consistency issues. Subconsciously I was aware of this fact, but had no idea why, or how to rectify it.

Luckily, my rock-star agent and her awesome assistant noticed what was happening with the voice in my recent revision, and commented on it. And let me tell you, they are some patient ladies, willing to work with me through every edit to develop this story from "good" to "great". Pretty much the only thing standing in my way right now is myself. Or, more accurately, the changes in voice I'd made over time. The last thing I want to publish is a book that isn't genuinely mine.

In my desire to write like someone else (not even one person, but multiple people, which is even worse for consistency), I totally robbed myself of my own advancements in style. For a long time I thought that the editing process was squeezing the individuality out of me, but it wasn't. In my misguided attempt to write what I thought others wanted from me, I was moving farther and farther from my ideal story.

Only now do I feel like I'm finally getting "my" story back. And it wasn't because of any criticism anyone gave. It was just my own lack of faith in myself. Since then, my editing demons have taken wing, probably to go pester one of y'all. Sorry about that.

So here's the moral of this story. Have faith in yourself and don't read too much into reviews unless you hear from multiple betas that you need to make a change. It's funny, but this realization that I actually CAN write made me feel like a huge weight lifted off me. This has been the most important realization in my entire writing process, a cathartic epiphany.

So, what epiphanies have y'all had about your writing lately? I'm thinking everyone should have at least one. ;)

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