day thirteen: on editing (a beginning)

I finished the first draft of EVERY SHATTERED THING in the middle of a coffee shop on a weekend afternoon.

I hit save, exported the document into a PDF, opened my email and sent the copy to what would soon be my publisher. They were a small press just starting out and looking for new material to share. To get their name out, they hosted a contest for new authors to win a complete publishing package. 

I made it to the finals. 

I made it to the finals with an unedited manuscript. 

This is not me bragging. I wish you could see the cringe on my face every time I mention that to someone. I often wonder what would have happened if I took the time to edit. 

I didn't end up winning the contest. However, finishing the book and submitting it to someone for consideration (and getting a head nod) was enough of a boost to make me want to actually publish Stephanie's story.

But how?

I was faced with the decision of how to get this book into the public's hands. I asked a question on Twitter about how to self-publish and got a massive amount of replies, most of them warning me against the idea.

And then I received a DM from the publisher who already read my manuscript. 

"Check your email," they said. 

They were impressed and still wanted to publish it. First, eBook format. If I sold enough copies, they'd move to paperback. There were warning signs even then (not receiving a contract being the most obvious) but I moved forward with editing. 

The editor I worked with didn't offer any advice outside of "develop characters and flesh out this scene." I thought I'd receive more guidance, and was open to making the story better.

Maybe this is how editors work? I thought. (Spoiler: they don't) 

I opened my document, scrolled to page one, and began reading through with as much detachment as I could create. 

I ended up adding close to 30,000 words, two characters, and more than a handful of scenes. 

The publisher loved the developments. So much so that they shifted the final publication date and made it an eBook / paperback release. I thought I hit the jackpot. I even wrote blog posts about how sometimes, editing means development — not cutting back.

And sometimes, it does. 

But most times, there is a beautiful art in killing your darlings.

This week, we'll be talking about editing. How to find an editor you enjoy working with; the difference between beta readers, critique partners, and editors; how to know when your story is ready for the public; taking criticism with grace and finally, listening to your story in a way that allows you to see what it's meant to be, and not only the words you've written.

Once you've finished the manuscript, it's very tempting to push it out and release it into the world. 

Resist it. 

Dig deep and find the story layered beneath the cliches, grammatical errors, and unnatural dialogue. You'll be amazed at the difference.

Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 13, 2014 and filed under indie publishing, writing.