Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, October 25, 2010

As I See It: When the Fun Ends and the Work Begins

Writing is fun, in a sick kind of way, or we wouldn't do it. Even the hard bits can be fun. The worst part for me is the origination. I have an idea but when I go to put it down, it comes out all jumbled and confused. My first few drafts are pretty much garbage. Still, I keep at it, because I love revising. And it's rewarding when I see improved results.

But I think the real work starts once the manuscript is accepted for publication, and an editor gets a hold of it. It's as if your child, who was safe in preschool then kindergarten and first grade, is suddenly shoved into Marine Boot Camp.

Are you ready for this? Your precious baby gets shredded, kicked around, twisted and turned, until you're not even sure this is what you created. Your editors, nice as they are, are crossing stuff out, misinterpreting what you wrote, telling you to make corrections, to change characters and delete entire scenes.

It gets tedious, tiresome, confusing and sometimes even contentious. In other words-- WORK. It's a job now people. Some days it may not be fun anymore. You are now a professional writer. It's time to act like one.

Most of us have had some pretty tough "real" jobs. We know what's required in the workplace to stay employed. Nothing is different about writing, editing and publishing. It's an industry. It's work. An agent or editor looks at a potential client to see if they can stand up to the rigours of editing and publication as much as they examine the submitted manuscript.

A writer has a job to do. Whether it's revising, correcting, reworking a story, or promoting and marketing-- it's stuff that has to be done. And preferably done in a mature, professional manner.

Or as the cookie-baker in me says: If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Being able to take the heat is what separates a hobby writer from a professional writer. At least that's how I see it.

38 comments:

  1. Yeah, you're right. It does take a lot of work and self-sacrifice to raise your child (manuscript). Sometimes if one thing isn't working, a good parent will switch to something that does.

    Great post.
    CD

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh yeah, baby, this is so true. I don't think anyone who hasn't ever tried to write a book can possibly understand what goes into it and just how hard it is. Thanks, Karen.
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  3. I grumble EVERY time I get edits from my publisher. I complain and moan and kick and scream.

    And then I do them, because the editor is usually right. :-D

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah, I found my editor is usually right as well.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I haven't been there yet, and may never be, but I do know what you are talking about. But think of the pride you feel when your baby graduates from Army school.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It takes a lot of down-and-dirty work in the trenches to make the magic happen. If we're lucky, our readers will never notice.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Linda,

    It takes a lot of down-and-dirty work in the trenches to make the magic happen. If we're lucky, our readers will never notice.

    Now I could have just said that and my post would have been 2 sentences instead of all these paragraphs. Want to be my blog editor LOL?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I cant wait to get my baby into boot camp, and you are right I just wonder how editors can make those suggests and I did not see the holes or notice my errors in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
  9. At least with this kind of work it's something you're passionate about!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Not there yet, but I get what you're saying. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Tough words but sometimes what one needs is tough love to improve and be all sparkly perfect! :-)

    Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
  12. :) Great post! I totally get what you're saying and I'm staying in the kitchen, hopefully for a while :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. it just makes it better! My problem is getting the rewrite ball rolling, but I think I've whined enough about that~ ;p

    now to get crackin!

    ReplyDelete
  14. And it's followed by even more work - marketing!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Diane, Omigosh marketing! I'd rather edit any day than market.

    LTM, yes get that ball rolling :) Just dig in and do it!

    Bethany & Amie, It can be fun in the kitchen!

    Old Kitty, I can be tough on Mondays, the rest of the time I'm a baby kitty.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thinking about people messing around with it is enough to make me want to lock it in a drawer.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Excellent post. I see it that way, too.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I hear what you are saying, I even understand it...SO why is it so hot in your kitchen? :D
    Good post Karen.
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

    ReplyDelete
  19. Jules, I am speaking here more as an editor than as a writer, yelling over from the other side of the fence this time.

    ReplyDelete
  20. So right, Karen - love this post! I'm in the tedious phase now; editing for the zillionth time and still finding typos. ARGGGGHHHHH!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I see it as a business arrangement. It takes give and take from both sides. If one side is making all the demands, but doing none of the giving, it won't work.

    An editor and an author can have a very special relationship, almost like a marriage, but when one side does all the talking, all the bossing, and all the decision making, but none of the compromising, the other may decide it's time for divorce. =)

    ReplyDelete
  22. The editing process seems intimidating to me; I think that if I'm ever lucky enough to get published it'll be hard to let the editor take over, because as you said, he or she might misinterpret the writing. But on the other hand, I'm sure the editors know a lot, so they could probably teach me something.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Neurotic, I think letting an editor take over is one of the hardest parts of it. Again, the baby analogy applies.

    Melissa, LOL!

    Talli, Omigosh tell me about it. And then you feel embarrassed about everything that was missed!

    ReplyDelete
  24. ...the real work absolutely begins upon acceptance! I'm pushing the two year mark...revision number 4, title number 3, and they're still playing with cover designs!

    ...patience, fellow writers:)
    EL

    ReplyDelete
  25. Speaking of cookies, how goes it in the kitchen?

    Hopefully when I get there, I will conduct myself in a professional manner....

    ReplyDelete
  26. I honestly can't say that I had a tough time with the editing process, but maybe that's because I'd written the story a couple years earlier, so I'd already taken a step back from it and could be fairly objective.

    Also, I had a fantastic editor that heard me out when I dug my heels in -- I try to do the same for the authors I edit for.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Such a positive attitude to what must surely be a rigorous and at times non too pleasant task.

    ReplyDelete
  28. And then, one day, you become as well-known as Anne Rice and Stephen King and no longer allow anyone to edit your novels (even when you should).

    As difficult as having agents/editors cut into your book, I can only imagine it's harder to see it hacked up to make a movie out of it.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Marine Boot Camp? Yikes! I haven't been through that yet but am sure I will one day (the power of positive thinking!), so I've decided to up my training programme.

    I've been to local writing groups before but the criticism I got from them has barely gone beyond "That's lovely, dear" so now I'm actively looking for people to start a crit group. I want to get proper constructive criticism I can work with which will help me look at my work more objectively and make me a better editor of it. I think that'll help me toughen up and be ready for an editor's feedback when it comes in.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Cliche, clicke...but...anything worth doing, is worth doing well. To excel at any job, you need to try hard. Period.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thanks for this post. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who writes draft after draft, trying to perfect my manuscript. I'd love to get a publishing deal and have my work hacked away at by editors. Whatever it takes to get my stories onto book shelves and to become a published author! Publishers know what the public wants, right?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Absolutely!
    You've put it in a nutshell.
    It's no picnic being a writer, and we should appreciate them/ you.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Well said! I'm currently chin-deep in everything you've described. Makes me yearn (sometimes) for the days when I just wrote for myself.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I wonder whether they did that to Gore Vidal, and whether he was cross?

    ReplyDelete
  35. Great point. Mind you, I find I rather enjoy the collaborative reworking process, although it obviously has to be positive and constructive.

    ReplyDelete