You know, a lot of people talk about the pains of writing a book. The hours of hammering away on the keyboard, the plotting of the world, the developing subplot buried in the plot that you really didn’t mean to have happen but oh it’s so nice to see it work… writing is a challenge, and it’s why events of NaNoWriMo are lauded as a good “check” for aspiring authors. It keeps them writing, which is muy importante.
You know what else is just as important, but not nearly as “cheered on” by the masses? Editing. Yes, that soul-sucking, life crushing time after you’ve completed the novel and you have to go back to the very beginning and ensure that, not only are character names spelled correctly, but also that you have the right characters staying true to their nature. Continuity errors, incorrect phrasings, or just plain old bad English (‘murica) seem to plague your novel. Nobody celebrates that time when the writer begins to edit. More often than not, other writers shake their heads and say “Oh, that sucks.”
Why is that, though? Why do we get to have a NaNoWriMo and not a NaDecEdMo? Because NOBODY wants to be that butthead who is celebrating an author who is gutting their baby.
That’s what editing is, in a nutshell. It’s taking out that precious baby of yours and changing it, ruthlessly making it better. It’s a rough, rough time for an author when this is going on. The author is feeling insecure about their novel as is, and now they have to look at it with a critical eye. That cute scene that you really liked but now doesn’t really fit into the story as much? Gutted like a day old fish on Market Street. The romance you thought was budding and subtle? Ei! Hakkaa päälle!
I’m in the middle of editing Kraken Mare right now, and it’s rough. My coauthor and I wrapped up the novel just the other day and, instead of my usual waiting period of two weeks to begin the painful editing process, I decided to jump right into it. And right off the bat I’m finding stuff that is causing me to roll my eyes. It’s hard to admit, but some things in the beginning just don’t work. So… snip snip, as the doctor says to the new parents.
…I really need to work on my metaphors some more. Ouch.
There is a reason the author edits, though, instead of relying solely on that overworked and underpaid editor at the publisher’s office. One, it’s rather rude to try and force someone to decipher precisely what you were trying to say and do. Two, the editor doesn’t always know which direction the story is going while they’re trying to match the flow of it with the necessary continuity changes. I can see some poor editor banging their head on the desk, muttering “Jupiter or Saturn, you schmuck… Argh!”
In hindsight, I now understand why most editors who have been in the business for more than fifteen years are oftentimes hard drinkers.