You’ve probably heard the saying that writing is a lonely endeavor. You put butt in chair and spend hours writing. At least that’s the way it is for me. Would you like to know what my writing environment is like? First off, the door has to be closed. Even if I’m at the house by myself. Don’t ask me why. A sliver of the window open, but if the wind or cars passing get too loud, shut that baby. My muse demands complete silence.
But another mantra that we always hear is that the art of writing is in the rewriting. After practicing for the last three years I can finally say I am beginning to understand what that entails. Rewriting is a combination of feedback and the dirty E for editing.
Comes from critique groups either online or off. First readers and beta readers. How an author handles feedback is crucial to the rewrite stage. I’ve come to understand that critiques aren’t necessarily about making sure the work is good or having someone slash a red pen across your work and tell you how to “fix it.” This idea didn’t become concrete to me until my latest short story. One of my loyal critiquers was reading my work in segments. She looked at the first segment and said I love it. Always what an author wants to hear, right? But then when I handed her the next segment she said your MC is completely different than the MC in the first segment. I like them both though, keep up the good work.
Now the usual cycle of the feedback meltdown is to get mad. She just doesn’t understand. Did she even read it?! Sniff, cry. Maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. I crawl under the covers. I’ll never be a writer. Time passes and I crawl out of the covers. I like the character. I don’t want to change him. Herein lies the decision that affects the fate every story an author will ever write. What am I going to do? The quality of the work and taste level of your critters will vary. They can’t tell you a story is good or bad. That’s like trying to nominate a barbecue sauce for best award. Every voter will have a favorite and most likely someone will like something you hate. The only thing feedback can ever do for a writer is tell them, how a story is coming across. And that’s important because we don’t see how weird it is for a character to go from being a vegetarian to eating a hamburger.
We take the feedback and revise to make our ideas clearer. It’s not about changing the story; it’s about amplifying your voice. Feedback pushes you to think about what you want to say.
Then we take it to beta readers. Their feedback is just as important because they tell us how the story made them feel. If they don’t want to scream, laugh or cry with your characters, it’s nail biting time and you revise again.
Editing: a.k.a the evil E.
Now it’s time to take the story to an editor. Here’s where they massage the words and you learn how to expand, condense and paint the story for your readers.
Wow. That’s a lot of people. You may have started out on your own, but when you think about it, there’s a network of people ready and willing to help you along every stage of the writing process. So if writing feels daunting, remember only the first drafted is written in isolation. You are not alone.
About The Author
E.M. Youman is a freelance writer from Oakland, CA. Some of her short stories have been published by Black Cat Press, S/tick Magazine and IFF. When she’s not writing fiction, E.M. Youman, works at an independent record label and runs a music blog. She has a B.A. and Master in Communication and is currently working on her first romance novel.