Friday, January 13, 2012

Editing After a Break

Ever feel like Ross when it comes to your "completed" manuscripts?

I didn't mean to take a break from editing: I thought I was done with all that editing stuff. Well, naturally I assumed that my as-yet-future wonderful agent would prompt some editing, and I remain confident that any editor who purchases my story will want some editing, but I truly believed that my story was ready for querying. I'd exhausted several betas, I'd cut thousands of words, and I'd reached the point that I couldn't be sure if anything I was doing was actually helping the story.

So I queried. And my wonderful, well-edited, workshopped query... went whump. This wasn't a case of agents requesting a partial and then passing. They read the query and fired of the form rejection. Or sent me to their "no reply means no" box. I had a couple exciting bites from agents I could claim a personal connection to, but everyone else... not so much. Fortunately, I've been around long enough to know what that means: my query wasn't working. Time to revise.

So, after fewer than 15 queries, I stopped querying. And started editing... the query. Because, really, practically no one had seen my manuscript. Obviously not time for me to get back together with that, right?

4 months went by. Then I got some great feedback from a first page contest and figured I could tinker a bit. What will it hurt?

Another month went by. Then I won a 30 page crit by the awesome Gabriela Lessa, and I knew it was time for the break to be over.

She liked my pacing and that I don't cram in a lot of background information... but she also felt a bit lost and wondered if I was choosing the wrong details of background information to include. She thought my writing was polished, but she felt like the story was waiting too long to get started. Her comments were spot-on and, even better, after thinking about them, I was able to figure out how to fix it! Well, most of it. I'm pretty sure.

So I ran scraping through the first few chapters of my book again. I removed a character. I cut one scene and added another with more tension and less blah-blah. I identified which details of background information were important, ran them through a trash compactor, and found them new homes, earlier in the story. Then I hunted down their clones and decided to trust my readers to catch it the first time. At the end of the day, I'd cut over 900 words. 900 words from my "completed" manuscript.

I'm not quite done, and I have some more nits to pick before I'll be satisfied that my manuscript is "completed" again. Meanwhile, I'm still revising that query with the help of some great friends.

Maybe in a week or so, I'll be ready to be on another break. Then I can get back to fraternizing with my new-shiny story. Won't that be nice?

Have you ever gone back to edit a story after a long break?


  1. I saw the picture of Ross and knew EXACTLY what was coming...and I watched the whole thing anyways. Aaaah, Friends, my teenage vice.

    I think coming back after a break gives you fresh eyes. Then again I think we talked about this on the phone the other day so I'll stop

  2. Good luck with this!

    I find that coming back to a manuscript after letting it sit for a while can be the best thing ever. I tend to see a ton of things that had passed by my notice when I was too close to it and too brain-fried to evaluate it as well as I could.

  3. OH yeah. I go back to stories all the time that I've written years ago. It's fun and you can see things that you would change as if it weren't your writing. Best of luck to you on querying and I hope you land the agent of your dreams.

  4. Know exactly how you feel . . . sent out my queries and then 2 months later I also got a critique from Gaby, which meant I cut, cut, cut and now 6 months later, I'm querying again. Haven't gotten a bite yet but it was just a week ago so there's still hope, right? *sigh
    Anyways, I hear you're participating in this really cool contest next week so maybe you'll catch a break there, heehee:):)

  5. Shelly: have I enabled you enough for letting me rant? :)

    Laura: funny how brain fry can stop editing in its tracks

    Michael: sooo much easier to spot the flaws for other writers, isn't it?

    Jamie: one week is still early days. My fingers are crossed for you! Also, I'm assuming the coolness of the contest makes success guaranteed! I'm pretty sure that was in the fine print somewhere...

  6. Oh, yes. With the specific wish to cut words. I've been success--I think. At least in cutting words. Hopefully they were words that needed to be cut.