Thursday, June 02, 2016

Why Writers Need Help

I, Donis, am currently fiddling and tweaking endlessly on my twenty-ninth draft. My books are only finished when they are finally in print and I can no longer get my hands on them. Like Barbara (see her excellent entry, below), I am also a micro self-editor. I want my manuscripts to be as good as I can make them before anyone, even my spouse, gets a look at them. The only problem with this, I find, is that after about the fifteenth draft, I completely lose any perspective I ever had and really have no idea if what I am writing is good or not. Did I make it better when I changed the word understood to comprehended? Is Character A any more convincing as a blond than he was as a redhead? Should the dog really have buried the spoon? Or should it have been the three-year-old who buried the dish. Maybe the three-year-old should have buried the dog and the dish run away with the spoon.

This is why presses have professional editors. There is no writer who does not benefit from judicious editing. Not Steven King, not Gillian Flynn, not Earnest Hemingway, not William Shakespeare. Once upon a time I saw a television interview with a Very Famous Author, several of whose books have been made into movies. This woman is big, I tell you. So big that at this point in her career, she has complete editorial control over her books. I know this because she told the interviewer, “I never let anybody edit my books.”

At the time I had just read her most recent book; a thousand-page tome that rambled around like the Mississippi River and was just as muddy. “Madam,” I said to the television, “you may wish to rethink that position.”

Practically every time I submit a manuscript, my editor points out some flaw in the story that seems so obvious to me that I slap myself on the forehead and slink away to stew in my own humiliation for a few hours. Why hadn’t I seen that gaping omission? In fact I probably created it myself when I removed an entire scene while I was working on draft number twenty.

I have never written a book that came out as well on paper as I envisioned it in my head. But once the book is published, if I put it aside for a year or two before I look at it again, I see it with new eyes. Considering how much I suffered when I wrote the dang thing, I’m amazed at how well it turned out.

1 comment:

Eileen Goudge said...

Well said, Doris! Like you I write with red pencil mentally in hand. I'm never satisfied even after a novel I wrote sees print. Then I want to dive back in and mark up the book. Which means I'm doubly grateful to my editor even when I groan at her long editorial letters.