Swoon Author Hanna Nowinski's Editing Update: Writing – Not Really a Solitary ActivityHanna Nowinski
Everyone tells you that a first draft has to do nothing but exist. That's certainly true, but what comes after that first draft? I mean, everyone who has ever written anything, be it a book or a school essay or a work email, will probably agree that you at least have to read it over before showing it to anyone. And usually it's not done with that; there will always be parts you have to rewrite, expand, or delete altogether.
If you write a story, the first few rounds of edits are okay to do on your own. In fact, it is very advisable to make sure any of it actually makes sense before letting other people read it—you don't want to scare them or make them cry with your highly imaginative grammar or completely implausible plot twists. A lot of things make sense in your head while you write them, but will seem like your brain was momentarily taken over by aliens when you read them again later.
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But once you've got those first rounds of edits by yourself out of the way, you'll want other opinions on your story. If your story is going to be published, you'll get them whether you want to or not. Those suggestions and corrections are helpful, they're necessary, they make your story better. And yet every time you get that second opinion from a helpful friend or eventually from your editor, you'll have that inevitable moment of panicked internal screaming before you can bring yourself to look at it.
I definitely had that moment when I got my first edit letter for Meg & Linus. That story is my baby and I feel very protective towards my characters, and despite the manuscript already being accepted by Swoon Reads, I still sat there staring at my screen thinking WHAT IF THEY DON'T LIKE IT??? But the thing is, once you get through that moment of panic, editing is actually a lot of fun. Well, at least for me it is.
Editing Meg & Linus was awesome. Christine Barcellona is truly a superhero among editors and I had so much fun working with her on making my story better. Even the suggestions that were a little hard to swallow at first, such as changing an important part of the ending, eventually made me understand some things better than I had before, because as a writer I was too personally caught up in the lives of the characters. That's the great thing about a fresh perspective: you get to see your story from a new angle and you see things you hadn't even considered before.
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One thing I always find fascinating about editing is how a lot of changes that seem so big at first seem to shrink in perspective when you start seeing them in the context of the whole story. No added scenes or little shifts in direction seemed to touch the essence of the story I had wanted to tell. It was more like the entire thing was broken down into the smallest components and reassembled in a way that made the whole structure just that much stronger. Talking these things through with Christine helped me see the bigger picture of it all and see why certain changes were necessary.
Of course I had the manuscript looked over by a few friends before I even uploaded it to the site—I love writing and I love feedback, but sharing stories with an audience of readers is still scary. So I'm very glad I have friends who are willing to look things over for me and help me fix them up before I release them into the wild.
Like many writers today I took my first steps of writing for an audience in the wonderful world of fanfiction. Which is honestly something I really, really recommend for anyone who wants to get into writing. Fanfiction, or one of the sites where you can share original works with others. For me, the experience of fanfiction had already taught me to work with beta readers and what to expect from editing. I think it made the whole process of opening that first edit letter a lot less scary.
I mean, I'm not saying you ever get numb to that sort of thing—having something you created judged and disassembled by others. Definitely not. It's nerve-wracking every time. But it's also so worth it.
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I love editing. Getting those drafts into shape and feeling it all come together is a lot of fun for me. If I'm being completely honest, it's a lot more fun than the first draft. Of course writing a story is great as well. Everything about writing is awesome. I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't like it.
But for me, first drafts may take less time than editing does, but they're the framework, the foundation. Or even better: empty rooms. With the outline, you've drawn up the blueprint. With a first draft, you've built the house. In editing, you get to put in furniture, you get to decorate, and make it look exactly the way you want it to.I'm very pleased with the way Meg & Linus turned out during that process, and I hope you'll find a cozy place in there for yourself as well. :)