Most of my blog’s regular readers fall into two categories. Many are writers who have “been there, done that” when it comes to editing a book. Others are friends and family who are probably as interested in the editing process as I am in best practices in proctology.
In other words, apologies if this post bores you. Bookmark it and come back when you need a cure for insomnia.
I am knee-deep in editing “Wolfman’s Pier,” the working title for what I’ve until now called “Manwhore.” Explaining the transition would give away too much, so I won’t. Although I’ve got miles to go before I finish, I’ve already learned a lot about the editing process and my own writing style.
1. I am still in love with my characters and storyline. The book moves at a brisk pace, with the right blend of humor, surprising turns of events, and relationship building.
2. Back in college, I remember a lit professor (who resembled the weird old man who keeps all the scary secrets from hapless victims in any number of horror movies) telling me I wrote like a “Hunter S. Thompson wannabe hack.” Meanwhile, my journalism and creative writing profs were praising my writing and saying I had a promising career ahead of me.
After a few semesters of being swatted like a ping-pong ball between “you rock” and “you suck,” I came to a realization. I am NOT a literary writer. I am a journalistic storyteller. I prefer vivid scenes to metaphor, and gripping dialogue and events to allusions and theory. I can’t write a page comparing a tree bending in the breeze to being resiliant through life’s hard knocks without snoring. I’d rather say the same thing with a ghost who breaks down because women can no longer see his tallywacker.
I’ll never be published in a literary journal or please readers who prefer that writing style. I tell a different kind of story for a different audience. But I still must be careful not to overexaggerate and rely on hype in my writing. I’m not a hack, but I can go down that road if left unchecked. A lot of my editing has been toning things down “just enough.”
3. I have been taking my imaginary machete to “lys.” She moved quietLY. He said gentLY. She ate piggishLY. OK, no one in my book eats piggishly, but you get the picture. Overall, I was good about “showing not telling.” But often I fell into the trap of letting a LY drive home a point. An occasional LY is OK, but when they crop up like mosquitos on a humid summer night, they gotta go.
4. Dealing with backstory bites. The line between not enough and too much feels almost invisible. This has been the toughest parts of my editing process. But I’m plowing through it.
5. My favorite part of editing has been coming up with subtitles for each mini-chapter. While not necessary, I think they add flair and fun to the book. As I edit each segment, I keep the need for a perfect header in the back of my mind. This hunt for a phrase that captures the essence of the segment helps me analyze the chapter’s flow.
I’d love to hear about the editing experience of others who care to share!