Under the Knife
It was time. I had put it off as long as I could, but finally, it had reached a point where it couldn’t be avoided. The preparations had all been made and it was finally time for the surgery. I had mixed feelings about it, to be honest. I mean, it was a necessary procedure and my progress was going to be stunted unless I went through with it. Of course, I was nervous as hell. Who wants to go under the knife? It’s scary. The results aren’t always what we expect and sometimes, there’s quite a bit of work to do afterward. Still, I had gone as far as I could go. It was time to just let it happen and hope for the best. With a deep breath, I passed my novella off to my three surgeons-in-residence.
Having someone else edit your writing is scary, but necessary. I had been working hard on Reaping the Harvest for the past seven months. It was a horrible short story I had written in 2009 and forgotten about until the spring of last year. I pulled it back out and decided it was too much story to cram into 5,000 words, so I divided it up into sections and started creating chapters. Over the past seven months, I’ve added subplots, created characters and stretched 5,000 words into 50,000. Finally, the first draft was done.
From there, I moved to revisions. My knife cut out sections that didn’t work as I added scenes and facts for a better flow. After my second draft was complete, I did a third and even a fourth. Once I was satisfied, I did what I called a spit polish. I read through it one more time, tweaking the tiny blunders I might have made, such as having Renny Saunders blonde in one scene and brunette in another. At that point, it was time to pass it on to my editors-in-residence.
You have heard me talking about these ladies before at The Mess. They are three ladies I live with that enjoy pointing out what a clueless man I can be at times. Every manuscript goes through them before it sees a manila envelope or a computer screen. So, I printed out a fresh copy for each, punched holes in it and put the story in a three-ring binder for each of them. They provided their own pens, of course. They borrow mine enough as it is, and ink is a precious thing.
Then, I waited.
When in a waiting room while someone you care about it under the knife, you have two choices. You can either pace the carpet bare with worry or you can do something to occupy your mind so that your imagination doesn’t run wild with you. I already had fears of my manuscript being a waste of a murdered tree, so I didn’t need to stare at the girls while they tried to concentrate. Instead, I began working on my next project, Losing Faith, which is already through the first draft.
Some have asked if having the ones I live with edit my novella was a good idea. “They’re not going to want to tell you if it sucks and risk hurting your feelings.” To that, I can honestly say, I am not concerned. They’ve never worried about hurting my feelings before and I doubt they’ll start now. Besides, they don’t want to be embarrassed if I put out a piece of crap and they have to be associated with it. No, my success is their success and they need me to provide my portion of the rent.
Furthermore, I gain the added feature of three varying perspectives. Each of the girls read differently and enjoys different things in a novel. Rarely do they even read the same genre. Therefore, if I can keep them entertained, I stand a decent chance of entertaining others. This was made very clear when I received the notebooks back and began to examine the red marks and questions. In some chapters, they each picked out something different that was wrong with my manuscript. Some I agreed with and fixed and some I stuck to my guns and left it as is. However, the few times all three zoned in on something, I knew I needed to make changes.
Passing the manuscript off to another, or even a set of others, helps give me a break from it for a while. We can look at our own words so much that we cease to see them. I did. Rhychard fell asleep in an easy chair woke up on the couch. I’ve read it so many times that I’ve ceased reading it and my mind either sees or doesn’t see what it wants to have on the screen. I need a break, and to paraphrase from singles all over the world, “It’s not the manuscript; it’s me.”
When I received the girls’ edits back, the first thing I did was read through each one. I was surprised at what I had missed and thankful that they caught what they did. The story flows much better now, and Renny is definitely a blonde. I spent the weekend working the edits, putting my patient through revision therapy and fixed my blunders. Another will read it, making her critique and then the patient will be released. It’s been an exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking experience, but one I am eager to go through again. And again.
I am fortunate to have surgeons skilled in the precision of the red ink. Don’t go it alone if you’re a writer. We’ve seen the work of some too eager to publish and the quality of their writing suffers. Eight eyes are better than two and four minds are better than one. My surgeons are great and I’m eager to see how the patient does when released from my care. May it have a long and happy life.