Rhonda Bowen is a guest blogger for The Word On The Street. This is the fifth post of her monthly, guest column exploring her road to becoming a published author. Click here to read her first post. Are you interested in being a guest blogger for The Word On The Street? Pitch us your ideas by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I took a journalism class in college and one of the things I remember my professor telling us was, “don’t get too attached to your writing.” Because chances are your article or feature story is going to end up trimmed, chopped, cropped, enhanced, reshaped and reformatted before it ever sees the light of day. And if you’re too attached, you’ll find yourself in need of a therapist.
The plight of an author, though not usually as severe, is very similar. As such I advise you to cut the cord between you and your 85 000 word baby before your editor gets a hold of it. It’s hard, I know. After all, you’ve developed this relationship with your words. You’ve laughed at how funny they sound, and patted yourself on the back for some really witty dialogue. But before you start engraving it on your heart, remember that it will have to go through a number of other people before it gets to the bookshelf. People like your editor, your editor’s boss, maybe your editor’s boss’ boss, and a copyeditor or two. These people look for things you might be too close to see, like the duplication of characters (the use of multiple characters to serve a purpose that could be carried out by one); telling instead of showing; and bad punctuation use. And though it might not feel that way when they tell you to get rid of sentences or whole characters, they really are there to make sure the best version of your writing makes it to print.
You can lessen the shock of the critique to your work by doing your own editing. Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne has been very useful for me in this area. There are also independent editors that you can hire to give you objective feedback.
It may seem like a lot, but thanks to the edits of others and my own self edits, the version of One Way or Another on the bookstore shelf looks nothing like the story that I dreamt up one breezy fall afternoon in 2010. And thank goodness for that.
So embrace the editing process. And when it stings, comfort yourself with the thought that the best version of you, is yet to come.