Knowing how closely our emotional and physical health are tied it is no surprise to me that I came down with a vicious cold the week I pushed to finish Rafe Keyn, nor that it continues as I keep working.
My diminished mental capacity makes creativity difficult, but I can still read the printed manuscript and find obvious typos and make other notes as they occur to me.
Eating well, getting my rest and plenty of fluids. I wish those fluids included rye whiskey and a local craft brew, but our water is good and still my favorite drink.
Imagine, though, if you were dying of thirst (you are, you’re a writer) and the person holding the hose kept shutting it off so they could adjust something. Spurt of water. Shut it off. Adjust. Spurt of water. Shut it off. Adjust.
It’s a writer’s nature to assume that what pours from our fingertips will be the brilliant story in our heads. When we read a book, we see the polished outcome, not the deadly trudge it took to create it, and when it’s our turn we forget.
Instead of polished prose streaming from our minds, it’s more akin to the green soup steaming in the concrete waste canal in a springtime milking barn back home in Wisconsin. Not even usable as fertilizer.
At least, that’s what we think.
Truth is, it’s probably 80% excellent, and all we see is the 20% green soup.
The 20% is 80% easy to fix. That is, once we dig in (to the words, not the mucky green soup) we find that most of what’s less than stellar in that last fifth is easy to fix.
Before you start thinking about another kind of fifth, do the math: 80% + (80% of 20%) = 96% done.
Now you’re down to the 4% that’s excruciating.
That’s where writing happens: the choices you make, and the fervor and grit to slog through that 4%.
No, you never get to 100%. If you can cure another 80% you’ll be at 99.2% which is closer than any of us have a right to expect.
Fair warning: if you are committed to the spontaneous pantsing version of writing, please don’t read this. You won’t benefit, I won’t benefit. If you’re open to having assumptions challenged, read on. To the end. Don’t read the first 80% and quit or you won’t get the point.
What is a House?
Though wildly different around the world, all houses share certain characteristics. Let’s explore the ins and outs.
Roof — Without a covering, it’s a yard, not a house.
Floor — It may be dirt, but it’s not water or air. If your residents are standing in a pool up to their waist, or swinging in hammocks 30′ aboveground, you’ve built something other than a house.
Privacy — Roof but no walls = carport or equivalent.
Toilet — Yes, in some parts of the world this is not inside the house. If you live in one of those places, you may dispute this requirement.
Services — Electricity. Running water. Drains. See above note for quibbles.
Egress — Without a door suitable for us humans to enter through, it’s not a house, it’s something else.
Lighting — Even if it’s windows and skylights, there’s a way for light to come in.
You may dispute any of these if you choose to live in the house yourself.
If you plan to sell the house, or even sell time using the house (called “renting”) I defy you to leave any of these out and still succeed.
Just as my editor does more than make sure my sentences and paragraphs make sense, my proofreader does more than ensure spelling and punctuation. Both are writers themselves. Equally important, both are avid readers.
The first proofreading pass of That She Is Made of Truth garnered some confused commentary from my proofreader, James. Plot points unclear, connections muddled — I could tell he wondered, a bit, what I was doing.
We need new words for all the things we mean when we say the word “editing.”
Proofreading is a separate word for a separate process and yet I’ve seen the word editing used where the writer clearly means finding and correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Let’s all agree not to call that editing. It is proofreading.
Professional editors may divide editing into even finer gradations, but I practice two: line editing and developmental editing.
A line editor ensures that each word is the right word, that each sentence says what you mean, the best it can be said. They make sure that each paragraph is properly constructed. And they do it all without stripping your voice from your writing or overlaying theirs.
A developmental editor looks at the big picture. Their job is to determine if the book as a whole is a whole. Are there sections or chapters missing? Does everything happen in the right order? (This applies to both fiction and nonfiction.) Is there extraneous material?
A developmental editor will tell you if your novel contains the 12 essential waypoints in storytelling. They will tell you if your business book clearly teaches the points you’re trying to convey in the most effective manner. The developmental editor’s job is to determine in the broadest perspective whether or not your book works. Then, in either case, to offer suggestions and refinements to make it the best version of your intent. Continue reading “Editing: Finding the Right Words”