I’m a bit of a foodie. I kind of have to be, since I’m also a ridiculously picky eater. In my culinary tool book there are numerous recipes that require slow cooking; succulent roasts, mouth watering stews and even a variety of beans. The problem is, long before these dishes are ready to eat, the delicious smell permeates the whole house and sets the tummy to growling and the mouth to watering. No amount of poking, prodding or illicit sampling makes the dish any more done unfortunately and in some cases can actually make you sick if raw meat is in the mix.
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I don’t usually review dead tree books or those that are only available in ebook format at what I consider to be ridiculously inflated prices (I like my ebooks at no more than $2.99) however since I promised to discuss the craft of revision, editing and polishing the heck out of your work, I’m just going to have to break with that ‘rule’ of mine.
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During the process of polishing your manuscript from a pile of slag into a diamond it’s very likely that you’ll come across a line, a passage, an entire chapter that’s so horribly triggering it will throw you into instant despair. Perhaps you won’t even be able to read through the horror on the page because it turns your stomach so. Perhaps every single word will be like a knife, stabbing you in the eye.
It’s not only normal but a good sign. It means that the bloom is off the rose, you’re seeing your work candidly and not as the shining darling you first wrote. Congratulations, you’re now ready to cut that horrible bit right out with extreme prejudice – well almost.
First, you’re probably going to need to curl up in a tight little ball of fear and self loathing for a while. Don’t fight it, just let the despair at your own lack of skill wash over you like a thick suffocating wave. This is your time to re-evaluate, kick yourself, send in job applications because you realize you suck as a writer and can never actually hack it and artificially inflate your ego once again. It’s ok, this darkest moment at the very bottom of despair? It will pass. Maybe not quickly but eventually and so completely you’ll forget it ever existed.
Trying to edit during this down moment will only do you, and your manuscript, a terrible disservice so put it aside and roll with the self inflicted punches. There will be plenty of time when it’s over to go back to your book. Just chalk up the extra time ‘off’ as part of the mellowing process and know that, eventually, your book will be better because of it.
Well I promised and no amount of hating process is going to make it suddenly easier to accomplish – so lets dive in! I’ve already stated that regardless of how much you hate the process revision/editing/rewrites are a must so I won’t brow beat you about it anymore. Instead, let’s start out by looking at the basic terms.
- Revision: focuses on overall readability and clarity
- Rewrite: writing a scene, chapter or page over again.
- Editing: focuses on grammar and punctuation line by line; also sometimes called “line editing“
- Copy Editing: focuses on the text as a whole. Includes both line editing and revision in one.