I’m happy to welcome multi-published author Catherine E. McLean to this blog. Today, Catherine discusses the importance of self-editing and shares her latest release, Revision is a Process.
One of my favorite quotes is by Yoda of Star Wars, who said “Do or do not, there is no try.” This adage was driven home to me when I attended a workshop where the instructor had us “try to pick up a pen.” Well, you either pick up the pen or you don’t. There is no “try” or middle ground. It’s do or do not.
This adage can be applied to self-editing. There is no trying to edit, you have to ruthlessly self-edit. If you don’t, the reader, editor, or agent cannot interpret what you wrote or form the same images in their mind that you envisioned. As a result, your story won’t be enjoyable or marketable.
Okay, so most writers would rather write story after story than “get the words right.” However, getting those words as right as possible shouldn’t be equated to a root canal. What has to change is the writer’s perception, which means understanding that revision is a process. That process can be made simple, effective, and efficient.
The next step in self-editing is to put some time between the creation of the tale and the self-editing. You see, once a story has been drafted, most writers cannot distance themselves from the enjoyment of their own plot and characters. When they go to edit, they lapse into reading and enjoying the story anew. So, how much time should pass between draft and edits? For some writers, it can be days, for others it might be months or years.
It should also be understood that there is a war going on between the right-brain’s creativity and the left-brain’s logicalness. Here’s the thing, logic will always — ALWAYS — win over creativity. That’s because creativity is chaos and the human brain strives to make sense of things (and not go insane). And never forget, your reader is a very logical person that must be convinced to suspend their disbelief in fantasy or fictional worlds and premises.
So, how do you switch from creativity to logic when you need to self-edit? Consider attaching something physical to reinforce the desire to edit. For instance, wear an “editor’s visor,” which is green and was used in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by copy editors. Those visors are now called Casino Poker Dealer or Croupier Visors, costing under $10 (for colored ones, look at golf and sun visors). Then again, a paper hat will suffice (and you can write “EDITOR” on it for more emphasis).
Another method is to have a special place set aside for strictly editing work. That place is where the imagination is not allowed to create story. For instance, I have an office upstairs where I craft my stories. I go downstairs to my dining room to edit. I now a writer who takes his work to a bookstore to edit (and have coffee, too!). Another writer takes their work to the library. Having such a specific place bolsters the desire to edit, not create.
I’m a curious person. How do you switch from being creative to editor-mode?
Links for REVISION IS A PROCESS
Catherine E. McLean’s short stories have appeared in hard cover and online anthologies and magazines. Her books include JEWELS OF THE SKY (sci-fi adventure), KARMA & MAYHEM (paranormal fantasy romance), HEARTS AKILTER (a fantasy/sci-fi romance novella), and ADRADA TO ZOOL (a short story anthology). She lives on a farm nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania. In the quiet of the countryside, she writes tales of phantasy realms and stardust worlds (fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal romance-adventures). She is also a writing instructor and workshop speaker. Her nonfiction book for writers is REVISION IS A PROCESS – HOW TO TAKE THE FRUSTRATION OUT OF SELF-EDITING.
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true indeed. when I try to edit I end up re-reading and enjoying my work than editing, like you said, the right brain battles with the left brain (creative maker over the logical thinker). great post.
Thanks for stopping by, Douglas, sharing your experience, and liking the post. Have a great day.
The day has drawn to a close. I sincerely thank Joanne for having me as her guest today. To all those who stopped by and commented, I wish you success with your writing and storytelling. To all – Have a Happy Holiday Season! Good night.
Like you, Catherine, I switch places to edit. I edit at my sewing table where I create with fabric not words. If my editor is overactive when I’m drafting a story, I set a timer for fifteen minutes and forbid myself from correcting anything until the timer rings.
Janet, that’s a great idea using the timer. Have a wonderful day!
I have a list of things I look for when I edit. Sort of like a weasel word list but bigger. I use the search option to hunt for punctuation and word issues and read each page and chapter for things like talking heads, sensory input, action and dialogue tags. Each round of edits has a primary focus that I watch for. And when that’s all done I read it over several times, and have my computer read it as well, to make sure I haven’t messed up the story or missed items. Invariably, I’ll find some tiny error(s). Making the book perfect is a hard job.
They say only God is perfect, Catherine. Writers and editors are only human and no matter how many times a manuscript is “edited,” invariably some tiny little thing slips by. 🙂 And of course, no two writers self-edit or draft alike so any revision process has to be customized in order to be effective. I sincerely thank you for sharing your self-editing process with us today!
Thanks for this…I need to start revision tomorrow after 4 weeks away from the first draft. (Publishing deadline does not allow any more time.) This helps me find a way to shift focus.)
I’m happy to have helped you discover a way to shift the focus. May your revisions be few. :))
Good morning, Joanne, and thank you for having me as a guest today.
You’re very welcome, Catherine 🙂
Thank you for this. Such a great post! (Think I veer towards over-editing, but love this explanation of the process.)
Hi, June – Thanks for stopping by, and I’m happy to hear that you liked the post. Have you developed a way to rein in your “logic editor” and keep from over-editing so as not to kill the voice on a page and dull a story? Would you share your process?
Think I’m a lost cause, Catherine – it’s why my third book has taken so long! (I’m going to buy your book!)
No one is ever a lost cause, June. Keep in mind that where there is a will, there is a way – you just have to find your way! :)) FYI: If you buy REVISION IS A PROCESS, let me know and I will mail you a signed bookplate for it (which is free, including the postage).