Yesterday I hired an editor. I’m terribly excited because it’s my first time ever doing it.
I have wanted to be a writer for a very long time. I’ve previously shared a photograph of my first story; written at the age of five or six, clumsily typed and illustrated by crayon about a girl named Sara who was running away from a storm. Flash forward almost thirty years to now.
My book, the Fortune Teller’s Daughter is a contemporary YA fantasy that is inspired by Haudenosaunee myths and legends. It is my third novel project apart from a couple of longer, meandering pieces I wrote in my early twenties, and it is actually a more succinct telling of a story that I’ve written in several different forms over the last five years. I am so ready to share this story. But even though I’m ready, the story isn’t quite ready. Soon. Just not yet.
The desire to share something you have created can be overwhelming—I admit I have been overcome by this feeling on more than one occasion. I don’t know where this need to share comes from but I know it’s powerful. Many of you may have already mastered the art of slowing yourself down and not rushing—which is awesome, but I’m just learning to do this now and it’s hard because I’m so excited about all of my projects. I wrote a lot last year: three novels, a novella, and ten shorter works. Part of this was possible because I was on maternity leave and I was able to devote more time to writing when my little sweetheart was sleeping. I return to work in April of this year and I’m already agonizing about being away from my daughter. And apart of me knows that there will be a shift in my writing productivity as well.
And yes, this impending deadline makes me want to move even faster to get my stories out there. But instead of rushing, I am going to slow down even more. I’m still going to try and write a minimum of 500 words a day with the monthly writing challenge but editing will be my major focus for the next four months (you can also edit for a minimum of 1 hour per day for the challenge). I want to be able to finish and share the work that I’ve already done. I think it would feel awesome to go back to work having edited then shared two novels and my set of short stories, and so, that’s my goal.
One thing I’ve learned is that it’s much harder for me to carve out time to edit than it was to write the words down in the first place. Especially with a newborn, a relationship, a graduate program to finish, and a new language to learn. Editing is demanding. It has this way of yanking you right into the pages of your story, to examine what you’ve written up close and figure out a way to make it better. It’s a skill that needs honing.
I haven’t done a lot to hone that skill yet. I think maybe I had other important habits I needed to develop first (writing every day was at the top of that list). But now I feel that learning to be a better editor will help me move forward with the next phase—sharing. So here is my plan to sharpen my editing skills:
- Hire an editor (As mentioned, this is my first time hiring an editor. Moving forward, I’d like to be able to hire an editor for all of my novels but I also want to get better at doing my own revisions. I think working with an editor will help me understand the process better overall).
- Read more (25 books is my Goodreads goal for the year, but the more the better).
- Start listening to audio books to hear what dialogue works (Audible has a free 30 day trial through the Writing Excuses podcast that I want to try).
- Read useful posts from editors about common writer mistakes (I’ve stumbled across a lot of these lately that included how to weed out ‘filter’ words).
- Establish a revision schedule that includes a plan for every story and work on edits every day
I’m not sure that doing these things will ease the excitement I have about sharing my stories. Maybe nothing will, I don’t know. I do think it will help me feel confidant that I'm doing as much as I can to polish my work and make it ready for readers. I see a lot of other beginning writers ask questions that I have as well: How many times should I edit my manuscript? When will I know that my manuscript is ready? How many beta readers do I need? Where on earth will I find beta readers? How much do editors cost?
There are no stock answers to any of these questions—not that I’ve found at least. And how can there be really? Every artist and writer is different; what’s right for one may not work for another. Your first draft might be near perfect. Mine may need five or six passes. And that’s perfectly okay! There are a lot of tools out there that can help make our stories the best they can be.
What about you? Have you ever had the impulse to rush and share your work? Did you share it or did you wait? It'd be great to hear your experiences!
Til next time, happy writing and editing! Also, today is a special day. It's my baby's 8 month old birthday. (Hence the picture). Gonohkwa Gǫwaęnǫnyani:!