Recently I've been editing my first manuscript and have discovered that it's truly a PROCESS! It's sort of like withdrawal from a really addictive drug. Here you have you manuscript, something you've spent hours, days, weeks, months (and maybe even years) methodically tapping out on your computer. You've missed sleep, you've skipped family gatherings, you've called in sick to work. Your characters have consumed your free time, your friends all know them by name and consider them real people, you dream about them.
You eat, sleep, breathe your story.
Finally, the day you've been waiting for arrives! Sighing to yourself at your accomplishment, you type those final words onto the screen. Grinning, you watch the cursor blink on and off. You imagine it's clapping for you. You blink yourself back to reality and look around your house, realizing that you've neglected a few things. Your husband no longer wears underwear, the lawn is a jungle and your child is eating out of the cat dish.
Still grinning, you turn back to the manuscript. The cursor is still clapping for you.
You open a new tab. You go to Google.
You type: Publish my manuscript.
You peruse the results and manage to stumble across a website designed for idiots who think they know about getting published. You stalk the forums, you post what you think a query is. You get your words shredded and handed back to you in a doggie bag. Your realize 125,000 words doesn't fit into your genre.
You open your manuscript again. Now the cursor isn't clapping! It's mocking you!! "Ha! Hahaha..." It says.
You curse and scream. You beg and plead for exceptions. You go back to the forums and search for them.
You find none.
Sighing to yourself, you address your manuscript. It's a twelve step process, this editing thing. There are few exceptions, you realize, and luck isn't on your side.
Step 1: Elation
Congratulations, if you've went through the above story, you've already been here! You wrote a story-book-novel-manuscript-thingie. Woohoo!! I'm SO happy for you.
Step 2: The Search for Knowledge
Chances are, you've been here too. Good ol' Google. It'll tell you anything you want to know.
Step 3: Fear
I have to do what?!?! I have to cut how much? What do you mean agents don't like dreams? What?? But I like first person!
Step 4: Denial
This is where the frantic search begins. But Stephenie Meyer's novel was longer than 100,000 words. I can be the next Stephenie Meyer!!!
Step 5: Passion
You get down to work. You reread your manuscript. You fall in love with your characters all over again. You determine that you MUST sell their story to the world. Yes!! Yes! Yes! It will happen.
Step 6: Unceremonious Hacking
Back story? Gone. Extra character? Cut. Chapter 14? Nixed. You hack entire sections at a time. You cut out parts you used to love. You cry every time you hit the delete key. You go through seventy two boxes of kleenex.
Step 7: Cautious Cutting
You've already completed Step 6, Unceremonious Hacking. Finally, you think, I've cut my story down to bare bones. I've sliced and diced it to within an inch of its life. You open the tools, you click 'Word Count.' You squeeze your eyes shut, afraid of the number. Despite yourself, you finally open one eye and peek. Startled, the other one flies open. WHAT DO YOU MEAN I'VE ONLY CUT 10,000 WORDS!!!
Once again, you stare at the damn cursor. It blinks, mocking your very existence.
You go back through your manuscript. You combine words into contractions. You debate removing every "the." You buy stock in Kleenex.
Slowly, the word count diminishes. You breathe a sigh of relief when it reaches the 100,000 word mark. Ah, finally.
Step 8: More Research
By now, your manuscript has reached your genre's word limit. You feel pretty good about yourself. You do a little more research about editing. You find tips and techniques (wish you would've known about those before, huh?) Once again the manuscript opens.
Step 9: Agonizing Alterations
The cursor blinks at you. You debate throwing your computer out the car window going 105mph. You curse the cursor, and it's mother, and it's illegitimate brother Bob.
You take up biking to get out your anger. You lose ten pounds.
You go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb. You do a line by line edit. You read every word and wonder if it could be better. You wear through the pages of a Thesaurus. You debate deleting the entire thing and starting over. You wonder why the hell you ever thought it was a good idea to write a book in the first place.
You get through it.
Step 10: The Beta
Finally, with your manuscript sparkling like a new penny, you find a critique partner. With fluttering heart and sweaty palms, you hit 'send' on the email, rushing your manuscript straight to them. You wait three days for them to respond. The email starts with You have no plot.
Step 11: Binge Drinking
You drown yourself in alcohol and swear if you ever, ever see your manuscript again, you will kill something. You swear off electronics. You stop shaving. You reach the lowest low of your life. You debate a career in rocket science. Anything but writing.
For two weeks, you ignore your manuscript. You try to forget that horrid little mocking line, you banish all thoughts that relate to writing, publishing, agents, books, and words. You banish words. You refuse to speak.
Step 12: The Revival
Someone, probably your mother (because she loves you), breaks you out of your funk by telling you that you stink. You shower. While lathering, a really awesome plot idea works its way into your brain. You try to force it out, but it's insistent. It wiggles and squirms and dances. It pounds against your skull. It prods you with a rusty poker.
You open your computer.
You open a blank page.
You start to type.
You begin a CIP: Cheating in Progress. You write to your hearts content. These characters are so much better! They'll never let me down! You write for twenty days straight before you accidentally open your 'old' manuscript. You read a scene, and then two.
Before you know it, you've devoured a hundred pages and wasted an hour. The cursor waves. Hello my friend! Grinning, you start over at Step 1.
Would anyone like to venture a guess of what step I'm on? I'm in there somewhere!! First off, I didn't write this to be discouraging. Not all Beta partners are terrible, in fact, most of them are fabulous (and FREE!) Use them shamelessly! And don't binge drink. It's bad for you ;)
Secondly, if you are looking for help on getting published, writing a query letter (finding out what a query letter is), or finding a critique partner, please go here: Agent Query Connect. There is a lot of good information there, and the people are SO helpful.
Here are some links that were featured in a recent chat on editing that I found exceptionally useful:
My last bit of advice? NEVER QUIT WRITING!! If you're frustrated with editing, open your manuscript and read it purely for enjoyment. You will find your love for it again.
It's a cut throat world for us writers, and we gotta stick together!
All the best,