Swoon Author Lydia Albano's Editing Update: A Great Big Learning Experience
I know it's somehow hip and cool to admit to being a procrastinator, and I know that I genuinely do work better under pressure (specifically the kind that comes from watching a deadline approach while twiddling my thumbs and then knowing I have three or four days to do a month's worth of work), but I can no longer pretend that my methods are healthy.
When Holly West sent me the initial edit letter and we talked through it on the phone, I was overwhelmed, but hopeful. The changes she suggested (even cutting two of my favorite characters, which was heartbreaking even after I saw the sense in it) proved really worthwhile and showed me right away that she knew what she was doing, and cared about my story and my characters and my voice. So with this surge of inspiration about how good my book could finally become under Holly's tutelage, I of course set my manuscript aside and ignored writing altogether for the next however many weeks until it was time to panic.
I came across this image on Facebook the other day (which I dutifully did not repost because I have sworn not to be that person) and identified with it far too much.
At this point I've given up jokingly bragging about my procrastinating and have recognized that it's actually a problem (haven't taken any positive steps away from it yet but that'll come later*). (Side story: The night before I was supposed to turn in my final draft to Holly, I stayed up until 4am to finish and then after my Monday morning meetings at work, skimmed through the draft one last time to see if I'd missed something embarrassing. One of my bosses, knowing how late I'd been up, offered to make me tea (I hate coffee). I said, "No thanks, I'm fine, but I appreciate it," and he said, "You just slurred all of your words. I'm going to go make some.")
Overall, editing has been a big learning experience for me. I've only ever edited my own novels with loose lists of changes, a few structural or motivational alterations in mind, and no real deadline. I've also only had my own opinion to base those changes off of, for the most part.
But having Holly's insight has changed not only the manuscript for Finding You, but how I write anything. For NaNoWriMo in 2016 I worked on an old novel that I'm kind of in love with, but I got to write it through new eyes—seeing the importance of making the heroine move, and do. How crucial it is not to let the tension ease up so much near the end that the readers give up caring what will happen next. How the motivation has to build, and make sense.
Editing Finding You has been eye-opening and so worth it. I loved my book before but to look at it now and see how strong it's become, I am proud to present it to the world. And that's new for me—I'm nervous, because people I'll never know are going to read my words and have opinions on them, and that's scary, and I get insecure. But I'm excited. It's crazy to see a flaw-ridden, rough-draft story that meant something to me turn into a real book I can be proud of, and I know I have Holly West (and Lauren Scobell!) to thank for that.
And now to not go crazy waiting for September.
*irony. I know.