Sunday, August 21, 2011

Self-Editing: A Process With No End

My friend, Angela, and I attended our monthly writer's group meeting yesterday. We were fortunate to hear Steffie Corcoran, Editor of the magazine Oklahoma Today, talk about self-editing. Ms. Corcoran emphasized the need for writers to think like an editor when polishing their manuscript.

I took notes and enjoyed what she had to say, but I must admit that my favorite moment of the meeting came when Ms. Corcoran had us do a writing exercise. We were asked to bring a piece of our current work in progress or we could choose to work on a piece she brought with her.

Ang and I both chose our own work.

We were told to take the first paragraph or two and rewrite it. The point being to come up with a fabulous opening sentence. Initially, I sat in my chair completely stumped. I liked my lead line. Then I remembered one of the things Ms. Corcoran had just told me. "Kill all your precious angels. If you are emotionally attached to a lead, sentence, or character then get rid of it." So I re-read the first two pages of my manuscript and did as I was told.

I got rid of the lead line I liked so much.

Imagine my amazement when what she said actually worked!!! I not only came up with a better opening sentence, but I now have a whole new opening paragraph for my book. Though the other was not terrible, this is so much better. I know you are curious, so why not share. Here is the old and the new opening lines for my prologue, which is the very first page of my book.

Old lead line: Ashra crouched invisibly against the wall behind some of the Zimri-Lim soldiers.

New lead line: Ashra watched her best friend fall to the floor in a puddle of blood.

I'll admit that when I first read this new and improved opening sentence I felt a little irritated with myself. This prologue was supposed to be finished. Yet here I sat after one writing exercise finished and proof that Ms. Corcoran was right yet again when she said, "Self-editing is a process with a start, but no end." Though I'll eventually reach the point where it will have to be good enough, that point is obviously not right now.
So I'll continue suppressing the need to pull my hair out when something else I think is finished, turns out not to be.

Thanks to Steffie Corcoran for her wonderful advice on self-editing and thank you for reading my blog. I hope you have enjoyed its contents and will share it with friends that you think might be interested.

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