As you know—or maybe you don’t—I recently finished the first draft of Resuscitation, the sequel to They Never Die Quietly. As is the case with most authors, before you can deliver a finished product to an agent or prospective publisher, the manuscript goes through a series of edits.
Some writers edit as they go, so the ultimate editing process is relatively painless. Remove a comma here, add dialogue there, modify a scene, tighten a few passages. Slam, Bam, and they’re done. For me, most of the work takes place during the editing process. While writing the first draft, my primary objective is to get the damn thing done—even if it’s total crap. As long as I establish the basic flow of the story and have the significant characters in place, I feel all warm and cozy.
Before I begin the editing process, I ask three people with strong literary backgrounds to read the manuscript and offer suggestions, both technical and creative. Two of the readers I chose are still reading, but one finished a few days ago and we met last night for two hours to go over her notes.
Page by page—all 360 of them—she went through the manuscript and pointed out about a gazillion things I need to address; some small, some major. As she spoke, I mostly nodded my head. There were few issues upon which I did not agree with her assessment. But if these flaws were so apparent, why the hell didn’t I see them? The answer is the title of this post: Can’t See the Forest for the Trees.
When you’re knee-deep in writing, sitting in front of the computer 5 or 6 hours a day, it’s easy to get lost in the story. So lost that you miss obvious mistakes. As Paula, my reader friend, flipped from page to page, we both started to laugh at some of my ridiculous oversights. The more pages she turned, the funnier it got. Some things, of course, were subjective. Ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 different opinions. But much of what she said was right on target.
So, as soon as I get feedback from the other two readers—one is my son and the other a long-time friend, both with keen eyes for good fiction—I’ll begin the final edit. But is there ever really a final edit? Ernest Hemingway once said that on any given day, he could select one of his novels from the bookshelf, turn to a random page, start reading, and find something he wished he’d written differently. This gives me hope.