Please help me welcome Maggie. Tell her what you think of her post and be entered to win a Margie Lawson lecture packet. Contest details in separate post.
Welcome Maggie, fire away! (And I am so there for your launch party
Maggie: Margie Lawson. She is a force of nature when it comes to deep editing power but she is also a funny, caring, positive person. That combination makes all the hard work of deep editing easier to swallow, and pushes me to be better even when I'm tired. I posted my initial experiences with the Immersion Master Class on my August 17th blog. Everything still holds true five days later. Today I want to talk about the daily implementation of what I've learned at the workshop and the decisions I'm making on how much time to expend on previously completed manuscripts.
Let's face it, most of us want to get our novels written, sold, and published as quickly as possible. We want that validation that we can make money writing--both for ourselves and for our families who wonder if we are following (and spending money on) an impossible dream. Even though I LOVE the editing process, because I can see how much better my writing becomes, it takes time--lots of time. And its hard. And its emotional because it involves cutting scenes and words I love. And there comes a point that I'm sick of thinking about it and just want the book sold..
I must admit, when I first left the class my excitement was also tempered by fear. Fear that the deep editing level required for me to be my best would require time I don't have. With a more than full time day job, my writing time is limited to a few hours each night. I was afraid that would mean my ability to turn out a manuscript would be years in the making instead of the one to two novels I have been producing each year. As much as I loved knowing that I could craft sentences and paragraphs like a NYT bestselling author, I wasn't sure I could afford the time to do so. I also had to decide whether to spend time deep editing the four manuscripts I have been marketing or put most of what I learned into my current WIP. It is NOT an easy decision for someone who wants every manuscript to be perfect.
In the past five days I've been re-editing a manuscript on contract with a short turn-around time. Because of Margie's class I've learned something new about my writing. First, I did a lot of things right before I took Margie's class. Now I can actually recognize them and name them. Second, I am able to more quickly pick up on places where my manuscript can be improved with a single line or a single word (this is beyond grammar). Some of those are small edits like adding a dialogue cue on voice tone and quality, or shifting the order of words to place the power at the end of sentences or paragraphs. Others edits are a bit more difficult like creating a fresh simile to heighten description, or adding a clear visceral response to heighten the emotion. The most difficult ones are deleting paragraphs or (hyperventilation here) several pages because a deflated the tension. As of today I'm 104 pages into a 353 page novel. I've made changes on EVERY SINGLE PAGE I'm feeling really good about the changes I've made, even though this is not a complete deep editing pass. That would take about 20 more passes, time I don't have right now.
After this editing pass, will this novel be the quality of a NYT bestselling author? Probably not. But I didn't sell it to a press that is known for turning out NYT bestsellers. If I had a couple months instead of a couple weeks would it make a difference? Definitely. But NYT? Probably not because the story isn't transcendant. It's solid. It's good. It provides a great read. But, here's the thing. Even with this quick pass this novel is significantly better than it was when the editor offered a contract. Before Margie's workshop I thought this novel was the best writing I was capable of producing. My critique group thought it was the best novel I'd written. It was. It got me a contract with a small press. But I can do better. I will do better, even with my next novel for this small press.
I suspect that even a NYT author knows her writing can be better. That's one of the battles writers face every time they look at the page. When to stop editing. When to let it go. For some of us, deadlines make that decision. For others, it is an internal one. For me, I recognize that sometimes it is better to write the next novel instead obsessing over the last one. There is also something to be learned in starting again and crafting better from the beginning. Yes, the words are important. They are what makes the story sing. The choice of words and placement and pacing may also change the story. That is when you need to decide is it better to go backward and fix all of your past manuscripts? Or is it better to move foreward and take all the lessons learned, putting it into th next novel?
My decision is to do quick editing passes of my already completed novels. I do want them to be better. I want all of them to sell and for readers to enjoy them. But, I've decided my limited time on deep editing is best spent on my work in progress and on future novels. Why? Because I am a career author. I will produce many more novels, not just the ones I've already completed. I have limited time for writing. I can't do it all. It's a tough decision but, for me, the right one.
During the master class I started deep editing my WIP from the first page. Because of this it will be stronger from the beginning to the end. I will take the time for those 14+ passes of each page. I will let the editing impact the story and the story impact the editing because I know it will make it the best novel I can produce over the next few months. Will it sell to New York at auction? It could. Will it become a NYT bestseller? It could. That status certainly starts with great writing and a great story, but is also dependent on timing, trends, and tenacity of promotion. Will this novel be the best novel I'll ever right? No. I expect I will get better. But it will be the best novel I've written to date.
Even if my WIP doesn't sell at auction, or doesn't make the bestseller list, I've learned writing techniques that will move me in that direction. I've learned techniques that I can incorporate in every new novel moving forward. I've learned techniques that will help me become a better writer with each new book. I'm convinced that there will come a point when it will payoff with better contracts and more opportunities. When it does, ya'll come to my party. You hear?