Editing: from ignition to orbit

Writing a novel is a multi-stage process. It took me years to fully understand this — to realize and accept that you can’t do it all at once. And at every stage of development, a writer should expect suggestions, critiques, and corrections, along with (you hope) enthusiasm for the story.

Here are the stages of development, and the kind of comments I might hear at each of them:

1. Brainstorming (“I like the plot, right up to the point where you suggest, ‘The heroine finds out that her mom runs a secret government lab that is cloning the winners of American Idol.’ Maybe something not quite so sci fi?”)

2. Drafting (“140,000 words? I know you wanted to let the writing flow, but… hey, you fell asleep on the keyboard for about 40 pages here, didn’t you?”)

3. Rewrite (“The story features cops named Darryl, Derrel, Darrel, and his other brother Daril. Do you need all of them? And I thought you said you were going to get rid of the clones.”)

4. Revision (“The heroine has three fights to the death with villains on the beach. How about moving at least one of those to the car wash?”)

5. Polish (“‘She fought him to the death in a frothy foam of slick bubbling sudsy slick soap on the floor of the car wash.’ Maybe cut the second ‘slick?'”)

6. Copy editing (Note from copy editor: “Do car washes use soap, or industrial strength detergent? Please clarify.”)

7. Proofreading (Proofreader changes “I have a sawed off shotgun” to “I have a piece of spearmint gum.” Author deletes proofreader’s correction. Changes text to “shotgum.”)

8. Reader feedback (“You don’t know what you’re talking about. The correct term isn’t shotgum, it’s bubble gun.”)

If you get to stage 8, consider yourself successful.

5 responses to “Editing: from ignition to orbit

  1. This is great. Why you aren’t writing comedy is beyond me. I think it should happen one day.

  2. Precisely. That’s what makes comedy work. I still laugh out loud at the exchanges between Evan and Tater. You have great comedic timing.

  3. Was just coming on here to say that this post made me laugh out loud – but RICH K GOT THERE FIRST!
    I particularly liked No. 6

    • I bet the comments you get are similar, except it’s not a fight to the death in the car wash, it’s a feisty young woman and a commanding Greek billionaire wrestling in the suds.

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