The Iterative Process

June 27, 2011 2:50 pm by MRM in Uncategorized

We get wisdom from the strangest of places. I’ve been going back and forth over the upcoming release of Shelter From the Storm, trying to make sure that everything is as tight and perfect as I can make it. I’ve read through it dozens of times, printed it out and gone over it with a red pen, even read it aloud just to make sure the words sound good. Every writer has to self-edit, even the famous ones who have legions of editors working on their every idea. For those of us who publish electronically and are still going over that first manuscript, the pressure is tenfold. Editing is a part of writing. It is also the single most humbling experience you can have privately as a writer. Cracked Magazine writer Robert Brockway sums it up best:

Learning to edit is, quite simply, learning to hate yourself word by word.

No matter how smart you think you are, reading your own writing and seeing every little mistake makes you feel like the most unbelievably talentless hack. Editing my own writing is my daily activity that makes me wonder how I ever thought I could be a writer in the first place. How could the same person that thought a “skein” was the same thing as a waterskin (hint: it’s not) ever convincingly write a story set in a Renaissance-like world?

Could a real writer actually commit “…but she knew better that to hope” to a page without noticing it? What about “Lear stepped forward, eyes on on the ground.” Oh yes, I did both of those. More than that, a perfectly intelligent person I had proofread the first draft missed both of those. The second perfectly intelligent person I had proofread it, however, totally noticed it. I dread what I’m going to see missed when I get my feedback from my third and fourth proofreaders.

I’ve been writing for a little while now, and I can tell you that it simply doesn’t get better. I read “on on the ground” a dozen or more times, even speaking the words aloud. My brain simply saw what I meant to put there. And every little mistake like that makes you look like an amateur when you’re putting your work out there in front of the world. Most of you wouldn’t miss that mistake, and unlike, say, Stephen King, I can’t blame a bad copy editor for not taking it out. It’s my responsibility, and it makes me look like less of a professional when “on on the ground” gets out there.

For my non-electronically published book, it gives a discerning editor another reason to dump my hard work in the trash. Hilariously, I wrote that last sentence, “…it makes gives a discerning editor…” and only noticed my mistake because I had to turn away from the screen for a second and reread my last line to get my thoughts straight. I am that much of a talentless hack.

I can take some comfort from the fact that typos are easy. Publishing them is easy too. Not that I’m the most senior writer on the planet, but if I can give any advice to others aspiring to have other people read their work someday, it is to have many, many people go over your work. Be nice to them. Bribe them if necessary. Even if you’re a careful, smart person, you will make those mistakes too. It’s just too easy to read what you meant to write instead of what’s actually there. Your writing is that personal; it lives in perfect form  somewhere up in your imagination, and the tough part of being a writer is making that perfect imagining of your story show up on the page.

Then again, perhaps I don’t even need my own advice. I mean, after all this, I’m sure to never make another tpyo again.

About the Author

Written by MRM

I'm a speculative fiction writer that spent lots of time trying out new places to live before finally settling in NC. I love code, craft beer, football, and fiction - in no particular order. My currently running works of serial fiction can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. If you're comfortable moving files around to your ereader of choice, always pick Smashwords as your e-bookstore of choice - they give authors a much bigger slice of the pie!

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