Anybody out there love revisions? *peers around suspiciously* Okay, you’re excused. No, I understand that there are people like this. People who love revising and people who hate bacon and people who don’t understand the superlative greatness of The Princess Bride. It takes all kinds to make a world, folks.
Me, however? I’ve always been in the hate-to-edit camp. As my career has worn on, I’ve forced myself into more and more rounds of edits. I’ve even grudgingly admitted that they made my writing more meaningful, and yes, BETTER. However, only recently has my attitude shifted toward edits to where I want to give them a pat on their metaphorical shoulders rather than stabbing them with a fork. There are two reasons for this.
The first reason is that my husband started writing a memoir. Then he stopped writing a memoir and started writing a fictionalized memoir. Why, you ask? Did he get death threats from Cousin Alberta over exposing her toenail debacle? No, not quite. It’s more that he realized that telling a TRUE story isn’t the same as telling a GOOD story.
Let’s back up a second and talk about why I hate editing. I’m one of those people who gets a lot of inspiration from…somewhere. Let’s call it a Muse. For whatever reason, my characters and huge chunks of my story appear in my head. Sometimes in images, sometimes in .gifs or full videos. That’s why I love writing rough drafts. I just sit back and watch the magic unfold, sometimes typing as fast as I can just to see WHAT COMES OUT because really, I have no idea what’s happening next. At its best, writing feels like something that’s coming through me, rather than something I’m doing. It feels like the truth.
That’s why I hate editing: because it has always felt like taking my truth and forcing it to fit what other people found palatable. If you know me, you’ll know this is not my forte.
However, in watching my husband’s memoir take shape, and in watching people tell true stories at oral storytelling events, I’ve gradually come to the realization that even if you have a great story, you can tell it THE WRONG WAY. That’s one way that editing is huge.
The pacing has to be right. You have to tell backstory in just the right way for people to understand a character and be sympathetic to them. You have to use a common-enough story format that people aren’t confused. It can’t be too long. It has to have an ending.
No, really. It has to have an ending.
An ending is not the place where you squeak, “And that’s my story!” and run off-stage. An ending is the line you say right before you drop the mic.
So even to contrary, ornery old me, it becomes obvious that editing is a great idea because your muse may have given you a wonderful story, and now it’s time to make sure you’re telling it the best way you can.
The second epiphany in my editing life was about Mini Muses.
I love writing because it’s NOT about me. I can write about thousand-year-old vampires and musicians and people who can dance, and all sorts of other things I’m never going to be myself. And I like that writing isn’t something I’m doing on my own. When my muse tells me to put a donkey wearing a nose ring in Chapter 3, I do it, because I know that donkey means something. Even if it might take me 100K words and two shots of whiskey to figure it out.
But only recently have I realized that inspiration from the muse doesn’t always just appear in my head- sometimes it appears in the words of others. My CP, who says, “What if her name was Jera?” or my agent who says, “What if we didn’t let her have that orgasm just yet?” and suddenly it’s like a bolt of lightning struck me right in the nose because THAT IS HOW IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ALL ALONG!
Love editing, folks. Love revising. And love the hell out of your team, from your CPs and betas to your agent to your editor to your mom’s hairdresser, because they might have the key to your story and you’re never going to know it if you don’t swallow down the ego and say, “Here’s my story. How can I make it better?”
And have an ending. Really. Because a book without an ending is just a