Monday, January 29, 2007

Editing: Let Your Baby Go!

Now, back to editing your manuscript. We’ve covered the first two stages:
  • Stage 1: Put it aside
  • Stage 2: Edit by steps, not marathons
On to:
  • Stage 3: Let your baby go.
You've gone through draft after draft, re-writing, cutting, self-editing, molding your words. In other words, your original draft has grown up, matured. It's time to let it go out to the world. Give it to your critique group or trusted friends.

Some people like to test their work on a critique group or one-on-one readers as they write. That's okay. But what your group saw as you wrote is far different from the polished piece you now have. So, whether they saw the manuscript in its infancy or are reading it for the first time, you need their comments.

They'll find things you missed, even though you've read it so often you're sick of it. They'll misinterpret or not understand something that was perfectly clear in your mind (and the pertinent phrase here is "clear in your mind.") They may even tell you to start the whole thing 50 pages later.

When your group or reader gives you comments, it's important that you listen without worrying about how to respond to or counter their suggestions. It's probably best to even forego taking notes. Tape record if necessary. They will give you their notes, either on the manuscript or separately. That way, you can pay attention, ask them to elaborate or give examples. You might even find it helpful to brainstorm within the group.

But, if your manuscript is too precious to you to even let your group read it, then it's too precious to send it to an agent or editor. Your group or friends may be tough, but they care about you and your career. To an agent, you're just a name on a query letter.

Yes, there are some writers who work alone, like tight-rope walkers without nets. But I'd venture to bet that even they eventually let someone critique or edit. It might be another trusted author or a spouse or even their longtime agent.

More stages to come!

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