Like most starry-eyed writers, I fell victim to the angst and stress associated with the editing process. The mere thought of another human being reading the body of work I slaved over, for the sole purpose of critiquing, was enough to send my anxiety level spinning out of control. To put the emotion into perspective, it is akin to the gyration revolutions of an old fashioned top. Yes. You know the ones. They are primary colors: green, blue, yellow, and red. My flavor of the day, several moons ago, was always green.
My ‘adventures in editing’ started with an email from an editor. The message in sighted a deep-seated tension in the pit of my belly that grew with each passing second. Acutely aware of a distinct drumming sound, my eyes panned the room, but I couldn’t locate the source. The steady cadence thumped onward, picking up speed. Sweat coated the palms of my hands. Stiff shaking fingers wrapped around the two-toned mouse sitting on top of Fred, my desk. Yes. My desk has a name, but that is a story for another time. Now, getting back to my editing journey . . . Beads of perspiration adorned my forehead like a tightly-fitted crown. With a single click of the mouse, the email opened.
Five letters adorned the screen: HELLO
Reading on, the bottled up tension began to dissipate. The steady beat in my ears decreased as my racing heart slowed. Words of encouragement spilled forth along with an open invitation to ask questions. This was not what I expected. Truth be told, I didn’t know what to expect.
With a new wave of excitement, I replied to the editor with six simple words “Yes. I am ready to begin.”
I will not lie, the journey took me down many twists and turns. The feedback provided helped me take a step back to view my work through the eyes of another. Items such as em dashes, ellipses, grammar, and formatting became a way of life. Each day provided a new challenge, but the process paved the way for continued growth.
In the spirit of remaining honest, editing the body of work proved harder than first anticipated.
To make the manuscript better is no easy task.” My editor’s words fluttered from the pages of the continued emails. “A writer must be willing to kill a few words here and there.”
So, I grabbed a cup of caffeine-infused hot tea and a bowl of dry Cheerios, and I worked.
My task was simple. Slay the filler words, such as see, hear, feel, smell, and watch. Killing these little buggers provided a sense of satisfaction that grew with the deletion of each occurrence of non-active voice.
“Show! Don’t tell.” My editor’s words filled my head.
Going back to the drawing board, I scrubbed the content. Passive voice was slowly replaced by action. I was showing the story unfold, not telling it. The corners of my lips curled. A broad smile danced across my lips.
“This is it. I have mastered the editing process.” The words echoed in my thoughts.
“You have a new message,” my phone chimed. My heart was racing, pounding in my chest. This was it. I was done. Well, not exactly. My editor responded with a new set of expectations. I cringed.
“Cut out as many of these words as possible,” my editor said.
A nice list in bold print beckoned me onward. Words, such as gently, which, sigh, quiver, cascade, slide, look, walk, then, and that began to weep and fall away from the sentences of each page. My brain hurt. No. Really, it did. All the information learned bottlenecked, creating a system overload. An impending meltdown was in full force.
The monster of doubt crept into the recesses of my mind. Does my character walk, storm, saunter, glide, bounce, patter, plod, stroll, or simply make his way into the living room. Sounds simplistic enough, well, let me tell you. There is nothing simple about it. My fingers tapped on the keys, keeping a steady beat as the changes spilled forth. Exhaling a sigh of relief—at four in the morning—I sent the next round of edits.
What, you ask was the outcome? A tighter manuscript was born, as well as a wealth of knowledge I will continue to build upon for years to come. I learned something valuable during the process . . . how to see the world of my manuscript through the mind’s eye of another.
Honestly, I can’t wait to roll into edits on a new body of work because I’m ready to learn and grow further as a writer.
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