Friday, December 4, 2015

THE END: A Commentary on Editing


Two of my favourite words. To a writer, they are the culmination of days, months, or years of blood, sweat, and tears. But they are misleading. We write them, sit back, and revel in our cleverness, in our determination, our grit, our savvy, our persistence, and our sheer magnificent brilliance. It could grace the page of a blog post, social media blast, short story, novella, screenplay, or novel. Writing THE END feels incredible, but it’s just another beginning. THE END is the start of EDITING.

I recently attended Bookapalooza, which is a really cool venue in my hometown where local authors get together and sell their wares. There were speakers and panels and celebrity guest authors. I was honoured to sit on a panel with fellow romance authors Molly O’Keefe and Mary Sullivan. These ladies are veterans. They’ve written a lot of books. They’ve been doing this a long time. Avelynn is my debut historical romance. I was the newb in the room, but they welcomed me with open arms. I was humbled and thrilled to sit at the table beside them. *girlie fan crush moment over* Back to my point: one of the audience members asked the panel a question, “What do you like better, writing or editing?”

Interestingly enough, both Molly and Mary liked the editing phase of writing better. I stared at them gaped mouthed as they waxed poetic about the brilliance of polishing a first draft and turning something misshapen and clunky into a work of art. I concurred with their sentiment, but ‘like_editing?’ That sounded like something out of a fairy tale. Seriously. Editing_is_hard!
Gone is the euphoria of creation, the buzz of new witty lines of dialogue, the high of brilliant lines of prose. In its place comes the breakdown and rebuild, the dissection and amputation. Our writing is better for it, sure, but the_pain, the_torture.

I recently (like yesterday) finished editing the second book in the Avelynn series. It took me just as long to edit the manuscript as it did to write it. Now, I blame NaNoWriMo for part of the first draft’s shortcomings (writing 50,000 words only to cut 40,000 of them, sucked) but I’m also a pantser. The first draft is a misnomer, it should be called Hundreds of Pages of Verbal Diarrhea. It’s the thrill and rush of creating new worlds, populating them with interesting people, and then making them do all sorts of crazy shit. Shit that just pops into your head, like out_of_no_where.

Inherent in that wild, organic process is wee bit of surplus and ludicrous, irrelevant tangents. We write THE END and then grab our red pens, or click up our track changes and get to work. And we keep working. For_a_very_long_time. We tweak and hone, over and over again. First drafts become tenths drafts and then morph into eighteenth drafts. We get to a point when we can’t figure the damn thing out anymore and call in for back up. We send it out to beta readers and beg for perspective and direction. The verdict comes in, and we crack our knuckles and sit down and get to work. Again. For_a_very_long_time. By the fortieth something draft, we pray we’ve reached the finish line. We send the manuscript to our agent or editor, or we query and submit. We get feedback. It’s still not quite cooked all the way through. So we sit_down_again.

For this final round of baking, I used the Heminway App. The whole writing process this is a never ending learning curve. I now know, I should have tried this handy little resource a few drafts prior. But, nonetheless, I plugged in my pages and reduced my passive voice, cut my adverbs, and cleaned up my run-on sentences. In a final pass through, I obliterated my comma splices and polished my prose until it shone. In short, I made Avelynn #2 as close to phenomenal as I could possible get it.

The good news is, I’m getter faster. My process is more efficient. I’m learning. Avelynn took me six months to research, a year and a half to write, and a year and a half to edit. The second book in the series took me a month to research (same time period just a slightly different setting) a year to write, and a year to edit. I’ve shaved my process in half!

Editing is essential. It’s a tough market out there. As authors, we have to put our best work forward. That being said, do I like editing? I love the results, but I’d rather each broccoli. Trust me. That’s saying_a_lot.

What do you think? Editing: love it or tolerate it. :D

In gratitude,
Marissa xo


  1. "Hundreds of Pages of Verbal Diarrhea" just about sums it up. I'm all about the editing - sometimes TOO MUCH about the editing. But that's the fun part for me. I like focusing the lens and cleaning up the unnecessary bits.

    1. Hey, Liv!

      I appreciate the focusing and the cleaning up too... but 'like' is such a strong word. It's more a 'necessary evil'. ;)

      In gratitude,
      Marissa xo

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