I Love Edits

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BookEditingEarlier this week, I turned in revisions for a story appearing in an upcoming anthology from Robot Cowgirl Press. A little later than I wanted, but still well in advance of the deadline. There’s a sense of both relief and pleasure that goes along with that part of the process for me. It’s probably an even bigger deal with a novel (though I’ve yet to experience that), but it feels good with a short story.

But I’ve been thinking: I like getting the edits and doing the edits just as much as saying goodbye to the edits.

Actually, I love getting edits.

Yeah, I’m nuts, but I think it actually makes sense, at least for me.

Getting edits back from someone who wants to publish your story is a good thing. They already like it, and are just showing you some line edits or thoughts or observations you might consider to make it better. That’s the spirit to take things in: making a good story better.

I look forward to seeing the spots where I didn’t realize I’d used the passive voice or a continuous tense or where I’d forgotten how stating something as a positive is almost always better than as a negative (unless the negative itself is important). It’s nice to know when I’ve developed a new writing tick (“begin”), when I’ve let a character speak for too long without taking a breath, when I’ve picked a boring word, when I’ve used a word too often or too many times close together, or when I’ve overwritten something. (If the crashing plane is trailing smoke, you don’t really need to add “behind it”, right? No crashing plane in this story, just an example.)

These are all things I watch for (among others) when I’m doing my own editing and polishing, but it’s my story. I’m too close. I will miss things. I think that’s as much a reflection on human nature as on me specifically. Forest for the trees, and all that.

So when I get a set of edits back for a story, I’m eager to see what little bits of odd writing I missed so I can fix them. Sometimes, I’m surprised. Sometimes, I laugh. Always, I’m interested to see what the editor picked out.

(Once or twice in the past, I’ve had to bite my tongue. But that hasn’t been too hard, really. The comments pane of a Word document is the wrong place to argue grammar or personal philosophical viewpoints, even if the editor is wrong about the grammatical point or wants you to change part of a character’s voice so it doesn’t offend some bit of their religious views. But I digress. Surprise.)

Most are quick and easy changes. Some editors will even do part of the work for you, cutting or moving a few words here and there, changing a little punctuation. But the fun comes in figuring out how to fix the ones left over after you’ve gotten the easy stuff out of the way. The places where the editor has put meaty comments or suggestions in rather than things like “find a more interesting word here” or “you said this already so the second half of this sentence can be cut”. Things like, “I think this sentence undercuts your character/the point of your story.” Or, “This is kind of dull. How can you make it more active or interesting?”

Those are the best things about editing, the little moments where you’re working with the editor.

And the “with” is important. If you start to look at this as a conflict in any way, you’re putting yourself in a difficult to work with box and you’d be surprised how much stress there can be in editing. Start working against them, and they may remember your name the next time you submit. Even when you think they’re wrong (and you will at some point), keep it to yourself and find a way to make the suggestion work for you.

You’ll be happier for it in the long run. I know I have been.

Be well, everyone.

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