by Liam Cross
Writing and editing, whilst they might be of similar nature, are two totally different beasts, and it’s a lot to do with the thought processes behind them that causes the web to be woven like this. It’s often thought that a great book isn’t written, but is rather rewritten – and that’s because it’s the truth.
There’s not a single bestseller out there today that hasn’t been rewritten at least ten times. Not only from the writer, but from teams of editors who specifically specialise in each type of editing too – so please consider this the next time you begin beating yourself up because you can’t write like Stephen King. You can’t write like him because you haven’t got teams of people helping you like he does – it’s just that simple.
Now don’t get it twisted. I’m not for one second implying that if you did have that sort of support you’d be able to crank out bestsellers like there’s no tomorrow; I’m simply pointing out facts.
Stephen King is a greatly talented writer, as is every author out there who has been traditionally published and seen great success, and their work would be great nonetheless. The teams they have simply refine their brilliance – they polish it and make it even more brilliant, and that’s why editing is so important.
So, to help you on your journey, I’ve come prepared with two self-editing tips that will really make a difference to your rewriting game, and subsequently, your manuscript as a whole.
Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
This is something that applies to every walk of life. Preparation, no matter how boring or controlling or uncool you may think it is, is highly imperative in your quest for success. Basically what I’m saying is: if you want to be successful, then preparation is a must. And that goes for rewriting your book too.
You need to make sure that you have a game plan.
Don’t make the mistake of milling through rewrite after rewrite removing the odd word and changing the shape of a sentence slightly. Instead, make sure you have a strategy, an angle of attack – certain things to do and work on in each rewrite.
Focusing on things in this sort of sense will give your editing – and ultimately, your manuscript – a way more solidified direction. You want to write like a pro? Better start planning out your rewrites so you can edit like one too.
Learn the Art of Self-Criticism
Sometimes being a writer sucks. Not because we hate writing or reading or editing – not because of any of that. It’s because we hate our own work; we hate it so much that we just want to delete it from the face of the earth and never look at it again.
As terrible as this may sound, it’s only the truth. Sometimes I hate my own work so much that I’m just tempted to give in all together. It usually comes when I finish reading a great book and go back to my own writing the following day. I always wonder why I cannot write that good, or why my book can’t be that successful. I know you understand the feeling, you’ve no doubt been there yourself many times before.
But, this is a poisonous way to think, and we must stop it.
Of course, we must train in the art of being self-critical, because that’s the whole point of editing our work. If we aren’t self-critical, we’ll never improve. However, taking it over the top is probably the worst thing you could ever do to yourself. It’s tough not too, but that’s the reason editing our own work is so damn hard.
We will always doubt ourselves, no matter how good our writing is. Even if we had written a NY Times bestseller – we’d still most likely dislike reading it back to ourselves. That’s not because the writing is bad, but simply because it is our own. I don’t know why this is a human trait. It sure sucks that it is.
What I do know, is that we must find some way to beat it, and I think I have the solution. We must teach ourselves the difference between necessary criticism and being hypercritical of ourselves. A great way to do just that is to make use of beta readers. Choose some people who read a lot, people who understand what a good book looks like, and ask them to read yours. Maybe they’re writers too – if so, offer to read their book in return.
Use their feedback constructively. If they point out the same flaws you’re seeing, you’re editing right and aren’t taking your criticism too far. But if they come back with very few flaws, you’ll know for sure that you were just being melodramatic.
But hey, you’re a writer, it’s what you do…
Guest post contributed by Liam Cross. Liam has loved writing ever since he can recall. Even as a small child in primary school, the craft of writing had always been an interest of his, and he now delegates his time to novel-writing – and of course, the occasional short-story or poem here and there. His ultimate goal is to be a published author, but he can also be found training in the local gym for upcoming bodybuilding shows.