Editing and Feedback

Since I’m in the swing of editing again, it seemed appropriate to talk about it.

Many writers hate it. They say it takes them away from their creativity. I quite like it. Creativity needs not be reserved for the first draft. As far as I can tell, there is as much scope to be creative in each subsequent draft. I could spam any number of quotes from the likes of Hemingway that talk about how bad first drafts are and if guys like that needed second drafts (though, granted, I’m not a fan–heresy, right?), everyone else does. Re-reading and gathering feedback from others highlights problems, challenges for us to overcome with our hallowed creativity. Nine times out of ten* feedback is like a helpful person grabbing your arm and warning of the mile-deep plot hole you were about to walk into. Nasty, bitey things live in those so you want to avoid them. The other time…well, we’ve all met Internet trolls. Remember: kill it with fire.

I find editing easier than the initial writing process. Being from an IT background, I’m used to seeing when things work and an ugly error message when they don’t. Unfortunately, your manuscript will not fail to compile when you type something silly into it. Your critique-partners might mention it though. Once you know what is wrong, you can fix it. Avoiding holes can even take your story through wonderful, undiscovered byways.

For this, I use enlist the services of a mix of friends and other writers. Each provides a unique perspective. For me, the non-writers get a later version once it has gone through a few drafts, ready to apply the polish. Where the stories in progress take a beating though is at the writers’ groups. These groups are even available online so you don’t even need to get dressed to send them stuff. That’s right, to paraphrase my spam email folder, hot writers are waiting for YOU on the Internet! They will even fall over themselves to help you.

It feels nice to be back in the feedback loop. Waking up to an email saying that someone has taken their time to critique my work and offer insight into how it might be improved is a great start to the day, like receiving a present. Okay, it’s not quite Christmas since every critique means I have work to do but if that work improves the story in progress, that is indeed a good thing.

*Statistics made up on the spot.


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