One problem with having a world of information at your fingertips on a minute-by-minute basis is that not everyone is sharing the same information. There are so many different views, opinions, and experiences out there that sometimes there is no straight answer to the question you are asking.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on edits and revisions for my zombie apocalypse novel. It is my hope and desire to go through the entire manuscript once, making revisions as I go and fixing up loose ends and missed opportunities, and then re-read the entire thing to see if there is anything (as a reader) that bugs me or doesn’t make any sense.
And if all the writers of the world were to read that paragraph that I just wrote, I’d wind up with 2 million emails explaining to me exactly why my plan is 100% wrong.
I’ve never been one to follow in the exact footsteps of those who came before me (I like to climb a tree here and there, or swim across the lake instead of going around it), but I do research sometimes, and what I’ve been reading on the topic of editing and revision has got my head about ready to explode. The thing is, whether you’re talking to professional writers, editors, agents, publishers, or amateurs, you get wildly different stories on how things should be.
– I’ve been told that revisions should always be done by themselves, as a giant whole, and that editing (for typos and the like) should be the absolute last thing you ever do to a manuscript.
– I’ve read that revisions should be avoided at all costs because changing parts of the story changes the story itself and you wind up destroying the world that you had originally created.
– I’ve read that editing should never be done by the actual author because the one who wrote the story doesn’t tend to notice any of the tiny, niggling little errors and end up missing most of them.
– I’ve been told that no story is ready for publication until it has been edited again and again until the author’s fingers have begun to bleed from the torture, and then edited again.
– I’ve been told that perfectionism is what kills most stories and that editing should be kept to a minimum because nothing is ever perfect and trying to make it so will only torture you.
– I’ve read that if you think your story is complete crap, you’re probably delusional.
– I’ve read that if you can’t find anything wrong with your story, you’re probably delusional.
The list goes on and on, a never-ending list of contradictory advice that pulls a writer in a thousand different directions and threatens to make one go insane. Which advice do you take? Do you follow the tips of your favorite author, or perhaps the wise words of professional whose made a living at telling writers how to write? Do you listen to your fellow writers or your critique group, or do you follow what’s in your heart? Do you engage the services of other professionals to do the hard work for you or do you buckle down, even though you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, and figure it out on your own?
I’d love to have a straight answer, for someone to simply tell me “Do this, this, and then this, and you’re done”, but I’m fairly certain that kind of solution does not exist.
Myself, I revise and edit at the same time, even though many people tell me that’s a recipe for disaster; I simply can’t separate the two functions in my brain. I also take advice from the critiques of others, but I also follow my own instinct when it comes to certain things because I believe in the “write what you would want to read” way of thinking. The big question mark for me, right now, is how to know when I’m done. With my currently plan I’ll be going through the entire manuscript twice, which is twice as many times as some people go through their manuscripts, and ten times fewer than some other people go through theirs. But here’s the thing: as I go through my manuscript, making my little revisions and edits here and there, I find that I’m happy with the story overall. Sure there are little things to change, typos to fix, poor wording to rearrange, but for the most part I’m happy. I think the story is good.
And that scares the bejeezus out of me.
How do you handle editing and revisions? Do you follow the advice of others or just do what comes naturally to you? Please share!