Three Lessons I Learned from Working with an Editor

“Edit until your fingersOne of the things I looked forward to in having one of my manuscripts accepted for publication, was the opportunity to work with an editor. I thirsted to go to the next level in my writing. I wanted to learn more and grow as a writer. When Enslavement was accepted for publication, I was thrilled at the prospect of one of my manuscripts getting published, but also really looking forward to the editing process.

My first round of edits came back with seven pages of notes and oodles of comments on the manuscript. Some of it seemed overwhelming, but I took them one at a time. The second round was even more daunting. There were hundreds of comments on the document. Again, I took a deep breath and fixed what needed fixing.

By the time the process was complete, I’d learned a few things about myself, my process, and my writing.

  1. Just write it. If I feel like I should write a scene, I should write it and keep it. I’d always heard of writers having to cut scene after superfluous scene, so I assumed I would need to do the same. So, I did. I cut. And I second guessed myself about the validity of writing certain scenes–were they really that important? Apparently they were. Almost all the issues I had plot wise were a result of me cutting some scenes or never writing others. I cut too much. I was too minimalist in my approach.
  2. Balance. Always balance. Every writing rule you will learn requires balance. I went too deeply into my characters emotional state, which distracted from the story as a whole. We need to know the characters emotional state, but that has to be balanced with all the other elements of the story.  I ended up cutting a lot of heart pounding and teary eyes.
  3. Sequencing. I had my chain of events out of order. It was subtle. For example, mentioning someone stopped cold before mentioning that a dead body lay on the floor. The character would see the body, then stop cold. Sometimes I felt like an idiot for not seeing some of these things during the 20 some edits I put the manuscript through, but it’s difficult to see your own writing clearly.

So as I go into the editing process on Enslavement‘s sequel, I hope I’ve already corrected many of these issues. But, I’m sure there will be other problems this time. Learning to write is a lifelong process. There will always be more to learn. And that’s one of the things I love about being a writer.

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Melinda Friesen writes short stories and novels for teens. Her first book, Enslavement, the first book in the One Bright Future series, was recently released from Rebelight Publishing Inc. Find it on Amazon.com. Learn more at www.melindafriesen.com.

Melinda Friesen authored Enslavement, a young adult dystopian novel, released by Rebelight Publishing. When she’s not writing, Melinda works as marketing director and acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing Inc.

And THIS Got PUBLISHED??

The fortunate by-product of studying all one can about the craft of writing, is one begins to improve.

The unfortunate by-product is that now I can no longer enjoy my reading of others’ works as well as I once did. I read as an editor.

And more often than is healthy for my hair, I end up pulling at it, dropping to my knees, and crying out with my face to the sky–

“Why?”

As in, “Why was this book ever published to insult the likes of us serious writers who do–their–homework and work HARD to create top quality work???”thumbnail_1345481241

We too often read books full of adverbs, too much telling, stilted dialogue, endless stale description, meandering plot—it goes on. An agent at a conference recently told us what she and other agents and publishers look for when they slog through their slush pile, and the truth was that many will, after going through the checklist for a fresh voice, strong plot, engaging characters, etc, is–what appeals to them on a personal level. So okay, I get that. But it got me thinking.

They say 80% of jobs are obtained through word of mouth–“I knew a guy who’s cousin, or, My uncle’s business needed someone…” And on it goes, employers hiring, not necessarily those qualified for a position but those they know, and think they are avoiding a risk with.

Soooo, How many times has a publisher read the manuscript of a relative or friend before the ones on their slush pile? How many of those books I pick up, that I can’t force myself to finish, have been published through the avenues of—

Nepotism. “(ˈnɛpəˌtɪzəm) –n. favouritism shown to relatives or close friends by those with power or influence”nepotism-2

The ugliest word in the English language. The worst hurt I have suffered in life has been due to nepotism. But I digress.

So that’s the theory I comfort myself with, (where here ‘comfort’ also means, hit over the head with.) How else can one explain those poor quality works of writing too often found on the bookshelves? Even a number of self published books are better quality. But, we all know life isn’t fair…

So let’s not let rejections get us down as writers. The best authors have had them in droves, too. Good company and all that. And next time you read a lousy book, don’t despair that it was published over your own, but stick your nose in the air, and correct all their mistakes with a smile, and a new sharpie that bleeds through the pages. It will keep you going until the right publisher finds your true worth.

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Bad books

(Disclaimer: Please realize this is all speculation and ranting; I’m not accusing anyone at all.)

Christina’s motto is:
“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” (George Bernard Shaw)

The Defeatist Cycle

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Writing has taught me a lot about myself.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is how to deal with my defeatist attitude.

Lately, as I’m going through the editing process with Rebelight Publishing, this attitude has been hauled front and center.

Editing is really tough sometimes—or a lot of times. This is how my Defeatist Cycle works:

  • I complete the 40th draft and send it off to third party for critique.
  • I secretly hope this is the first novel in the history of the written word to be absolutely perfect.
  • The third party returns my manuscript to me, the track changes button smoking.
  • I get overwhelmed. I panic. I mentally scream, “This is it. I can’t take it anymore.”
  • I mope. I’m never going to solve these problems. I’m just not smart enough. I should get a real job.
  • I start mulling over the changes that need to be made.
  • Ideas spring to mind about how to make the necessary changes.
  • I get excited about the new ideas.
  • I edit and rewrite my little heart out.
  • I rejoice. My manuscript is so much better now. I did it. I did it. I did it!
  • I seek out another third party to give me feedback on the 51st draft.

And so the cycle begins again. Now that I know this about myself, I’ve learned to anticipate those feelings and encourage myself that those defeatist feelings will pass.

What have you learned about yourself through your writing?

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Melinda Friesen writes short stories and novels for teens. Her first novel, The Enslavement of Rielle James, is due for October 2014 release from Rebelight Publishing Inc. She lives in Winnipeg, MB Canada with her husband and four children.

Melinda Friesen authored Enslavement, a young adult dystopian novel, released by Rebelight Publishing. When she’s not writing, Melinda works as marketing director and acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing Inc.

Want to Take Your Writing to the Next Level?

circle2 In what’s becoming my eternal quest to improve my writing, I’ve discovered one practice that makes a huge difference.

We can read blogs and books on writing. We can write everyday, take writing courses, and attend seminars. All of which can help us discover areas needing growth. However, how do you know if you’re properly applying what you’ve learned?

Enter the critique circle. What is a critique circle? It’s a group of writers who read each other’s entire novels and give feedback on everything from plot and characterization to pacing and prose.

You might be thinking you learn a lot from their comments on your manuscript and you do learn a lot that way, but I’ve found that I learn so much more through critiquing others’ manuscripts.

That annoying little habit–so hard to pick-up on in your own writing–becomes glaringly loud when youcircle1 read it in someone else’s work. We know in our heads where emphasis should be placed in our own sentences, but we don’t know when we read others’ work. So guess what? That awkward phrasing another writer uses is also awkward when you use it.

You also become practiced at picking up on plot and character issues and can become adept at solving them as you converse with other writers.

Yes, it is time consuming to critique for others, but the benefits are well worth the trouble.

Have you benefitted from a critique circle? Do you have writer friends you can organize into a mutually helpful group?

In my next post I’ll get into how to critique others without making them hate you.

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Melinda Friesen writes short stories and novels for MG, YA and NA. She lives in Winnipeg, MB Canada with her husband and for children. Her novel, The Enslavement of Rielle James, launches in October 2014 from Rebelight Publishing Inc.

Melinda Friesen authored Enslavement, a young adult dystopian novel, released by Rebelight Publishing. When she’s not writing, Melinda works as marketing director and acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing Inc.

A Quick Tip that will Instantly Improve Your Writing

553653_orig Here’s a technique that will  not only draw your readers closer to your POV character, but also  cut words and liven up your prose.

 Search your manuscript for every use of I SEE, I HEAR, I FEEL, I TASTE, I SMELL (or HE SEES, HE HEARS, etc.). Most of the time, they’re unnecessary and set your readers at arm’s length from your main character. The reader assumes if the POV character mentions it, that they heard, saw, or smelled it, so there’s no need to state it.

Here’s some examples:

I hear a dog barking.

Instead just say: A dog barks.

dog bark

He see headlights speeding toward him.

Instead: Headlights speed toward him.

headlights

She smells perfume on his collar.

A hint of perfume sticks to his collar.

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In the first two examples eliminating the sense cues saves words and in the last, while no words are saved, we get a more descriptive sentence.

Give this technique a try in your writing and let me know what you think. For more on this techniques and others please see our Resources for Writers page and check out Rivet Your Reader with Deep POV by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. It’s a resource every writer should have on their shelf.

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Melinda Friesen writes short stories and novels for teens.

Melinda Friesen authored Enslavement, a young adult dystopian novel, released by Rebelight Publishing. When she’s not writing, Melinda works as marketing director and acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing Inc.
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